1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Counter

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COUNTER. (1) (Through the O. Fr. conteoir, modern comptoir, from Lat. computare, to reckon), a round piece of metal, wood or other material used anciently in making calculations, and now for reckoning points in games of cards, &c., or as tokens representing actual coins or sums of money in gambling games such as roulette. The word is thus used, figuratively, of something of no real value, a sham. In the original sense of “a means of counting money, or keeping accounts,” “counter” is used of the table or flat-topped barrier in a bank, merchant’s office or shop, on which money is counted and goods handed to a customer. The term was also applied, usually in the form “compter,” to the debtors’ prisons attached to the mayor’s or sheriff’s courts in London and some other boroughs in England. The “compters” of the sheriff’s courts of the city of London were, at various times, in the Poultry, Bread St., Wood St. and Giltspur St.; the Giltspur St. compter was the last to be closed, in 1854. (2) (From Lat. contra, opposite, against), a circular parry in fencing, and in boxing, a blow given as a parry to a lead of an opponent. The word is also used of the stiff piece of leather at the back of a boot or shoe, of the rounded angle at the stern of a ship, and, in a horse, of the part lying between the shoulder and the under part of the neck. In composition, counter is used to express contrary action, as in “countermand,” “counterfeit,” &c.