Wallet – definition and meaning

A wallet is a small, flat case in which we keep money (banknotes), small documents, bank cards, loyalty cards, our driving license, and possibly some kind of photo ID.

They are typically made of fabric or leather, are pocket sized, and usually (not always) foldable.

According to the Online *Etymology Dictionary, the word ‘wallet’ first appeared in the English language in the late fourteenth century, with the meaning ‘bag, knapsack’.

Nobody is sure where that word came from – perhaps from an unrecorded Old North French Walet, meaning ‘knapsack, roll’.

** Etymology is the study of the origin of words and how they have evolved over time.

With its modern meaning – ‘a flat case for carrying paper money’ – the word ‘wallet’ is believed to have emerged in American English in 1834.

Wallets come in many sizes and prices. Some may cost as little as $5, while other super fancy ones may sell for several hundred dollars.


Wallet for online transactions

Over the past couple of decades – since the emergence of the Internet and online shopping – the term has taken on a new meaning. Wallets, in the world of IT (information technology), are small software programs that are used for shopping online and other online transactions.

Online wallets are commonly referred to as E-Wallets.

Online Wallet - E-walletAn e-wallet is a web service or program that allows you to store and control your online shopping. It contains data such as passwords, logins, shipping address, billing address, and credit/debit card details – all in one central place. It provides a convenient and quick method for people to buy products from virtually any individual or business across the world. (Image: adapted from e2logy.com/blog)

TechTarget says that several payment solution firms, such as CyberCase, offer free Wallet software that allows a number of methods of payment to be defined within it. This is how the software works:

– When you order an item, your order is sent to the seller’s server, which sends back an invoice and asks you to launch the Wallet in your computer (or download it rapidly if you don’t have it).

– When you select ‘Pay’, the software on the merchant’s server sends a message back to your computer, tablet or smartphone that activates the ‘Wallet’ software. You choose one of the cards listed and click.

– Real-time credit/debit card authorization occurs during the transaction.

Apples’ Wallet – an iOS app – allows users to store their driving licence, coupons, boarding passes, store cards, event tickets, as well as credit/debit and loyalty cards.

The world’s largest commercial banknote printer and passport manufacturer, UK-based De La Rue, is working on creating digital passports that can be stored in a smartphone wallet.