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The Origins of the Piggy Bank


Ever wondered where the term ‘piggy bank’ comes from? Maybe you’ve pondered the reason why we started keeping money inside pigs? We delve into the history behind the popularity of the money box to discover how they came about, how they got their name and why they are traditionally shaped like pigs.

Who made the first piggy bank?

The invention of the piggy bank originates to over 600 years ago in the 15th century when people would use pots to store what money they had. In that time, metal was an expensive commodity and not frequently used for household equipment. Household items such as plates and pots were made from an affordable clay called ‘pygg’. 

Therefore, whenever people had a few extra coins, they would simply drop it into their clay jars which they referred to as a ‘pygg’ bank or pot. During the time of the Saxons, vowels had different sounds to them, therefore 'pygg' would be pronounced as 'pug.' However, soon after the pronunciation of ‘y’ changed from a ‘u’ to an ‘I’, making clay ‘pygg’ and the animal 'pig' sound the same. An interesting fact in the old English language, coincidently pigs would roll around in ‘pygg’ mud and dirt, which could have contributed to the association of the words. 

As both words sounded the same, English potters would shape ‘pygg’ pots into the shape of pigs to humour the words. As this became a trend, people would request for the ‘pygg’ pots to be shaped like pigs. Over the next few hundred years people slowly forgot that ‘pygg’ referred to the clay. This became the norm in the 19th century, English potters would create pots shaped like pigs for people to use as a bank, humouring the origins of the word. This may have been accidental but has been used ever since and this is why we still use piggy banks today.

Piggy bank superstitions

In some European countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, the pig represents good fortune, so it’s customary to gift people with a piggy bank as a symbol of prosperity. During New Year, it’s also a tradition to exchange ‘Lucky Pigs’ made of marzipan, chocolate, wood or porcelain.

Piggy banks are also an important part of Chinese culture. In the Chinese zodiac, the pig is a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and giving a piggy bank is believed to bring good luck and fortune to the recipient. The piggy bank is also seen as a practical gift, as it encourages saving and financial responsibility, which are important values in Chinese culture.

The importance of piggy banks

Looking beyond its fascinating origins and its cultural significance, the practical purpose of the piggy bank has stood the test of time – that is, encouraging people to save money.

With the rise of digital banking and cashless transactions, the act of physically putting money into a piggy bank may seem a little outdated. However, the fundamental principle of saving remains as important as ever.

So, let’s not forget the humble piggy bank. Let’s continue to celebrate it as an inspiration and as a reminder of the importance of healthy savings habits.

Fill up your piggy bank

If you’re looking for ways to keep your piggy bank topped up and your savings goals on track, we’ve put together some of our top money management tips. To find out more read our blog on positive money habits.


Paragon Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England number 05390593. Registered office 51 Homer Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 3QJ. Paragon Bank PLC is registered on the Financial Services Register under the firm reference number 604551