Earlier this month, India made news after giving its currency, the rupee, an official currency symbol. This got me thinking - where did the symbols for the rest of the world's currencies come from? Let's take a look at some of the world's most heavily traded currencies and their origins.

IN PICTURES: Top 6 Most Tradable Currency Pairs


The "Greenback"
The roots of the dollar can be traced back to Spain. In 1785, the United States began using its own currency, and modeled it after that of Spain. Different theories surround the exact origin of the $, but some experts have labeled the sign as an abbreviation for the word "peso". Pesos was expressed as "ps" and transformed into the "S" with one line through it as a short version of the "p."

One other theory proposes the double stroke version represents an acronym for the United States by placing a short-hand "U" atop the "S." (For related reading, check out The History Of Coinage In The U.S.)

Euro
The euro is the youngest currency on our list, but it took a long time to come about. The euro became the only currency in member states in 2002, however its origin can be traced to the Maastricht Treaty of 1991. As for the euro sign's origin, designers submitted their ideas and a winner was determined by way of polling and an eventual choice made by the European Commission. The Commission released a statement saying the sign for the euro was inspired by the Greek symbol epsilon. Epsilon is an "E" in English, representing the first letter of the word "Europe." The parallel lines across the epsilon are to certify the stability of the currency. (For more, check out What The Falling Euro Means For You.)

The Great British Pound
Even though Great Britain is part of the European Union, the pound is still around. The origins of the pound sign can be linked back to "libra," the Latin term for scales or balances.

Theories abound on the origin of the term "pound sterling," but one point most currency experts agree on is the connection to weight and silver. The title seems quite fitting as the original British pound was designed as one pound of pure silver.

The Japanese Yen
The yen was adopted as Japan's official currency in May, 1871. Like many other countries, the roots of the currency lie in silver. The yen was originally designed to weigh approximately 24.26 grams of pure silver, or 1.5 grams of pure gold. Currently, yen coins are made of aluminum.

The word "yen" is actually pronounced as "en" in Japanese. Yen translates to "round object," describing the shape of coins used by other countries. The "Y" used in the yen symbol may have been adopted due to the propensity of foreigners to pronounce the word "en" with a "y" preceding it. (For more, see The U.S. Dollar And The Yen: An Interesting Partnership.)

The "Swissie"
The Swiss franc made its debut in 1798. The currency was being manufactured by approximately 75 groups, until eventually the federal government intervened. In 1848, the federal government deemed itself the only entity permitted to manufacture currency. The franc became the official currency of Switzerland in 1850.

Years ago, France was probably the country most often associated with francs, but now the Swiss franc is the only franc still issued. Literally, "franc" translates to 100 centimes, the French equivalent of the word "cent".

The Swedish Krona
Krona actually means "crown" in Swedish. The krona was adopted as Sweden's official currency in 1873. Sweden kept things simple by using "kr" as the currency's symbol. The original krona was worth 1/2480 kilogram of pure gold. Since then, kronor (plural for krona) contents have included several metals such as tin, iron, copper and silver.

The Australian Dollar
The Australian dollar is also a young currency. It was introduced in its current form in 1966 after a conversion from the use of pounds. Several names were proposed for the new currency including the "boomer," the "kanga" and the "roo." Robert Menzies, then prime minister, wanted to call the currency the "royal," but he lost the naming battle.

The Canadian Dollar
Canada is another nation that swapped pounds for dollars. In 1841, one Canadian pound was equal to four U.S. dollars. Recently, the Canadian dollar and the U.S. dollar have been trading at or near par. Several provinces had different currencies, so the federal government stepped in in 1871 to establish unity.

The Canadian dollar is often denoted as C$ to differentiate it from other dollar denominations. (To learn more, see Canada's Commodity Currency: Oil And The Loonie.)

Conclusion
They say money makes the world go 'round, but what kind of money depends on what country you are in. Currency values may not be stable, but the currencies themselves have a habit of staying put. (To learn more, see Common Questions About Currency Trading.)

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How To Get That Entry-Level Financial Analyst Job

    Landing a job as a financial analyst takes study, strategy and a lot of hard work. Here's how to hone your competitive edge.
  2. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: SPDR Dow Jones International RelEst

    Learn how the SPDR Dow Jones International Real Estate exchange-traded fund (ETF) is managed and for whom the ETF is most appropriate.
  3. Personal Finance

    Does It Make Sense to Go to College in Europe?

    If you're deciding whether to get a degree abroad, first do your research and talk to alumni who have completed the same program.
  4. Savings

    Traveling Abroad? Get the Best Exchange Rates

    When you exchange currencies, here’s how to make sure you are getting top value on the trade.
  5. Investing Basics

    Explaining Trade Liberalization

    Trade liberalization is the process of removing or reducing obstacles that impede the exchange of goods and services between nations.
  6. Forex Education

    China's Devaluation of the Yuan

    Just over one week ago the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) surprised markets with three consecutive devaluations of the yuan, knocking over 3% off its value.
  7. Savings

    How Volatile Exchange Rates Affect Your Vacation

    Those ever-changing fluctuations can make a difference in anything from your hotel room to an ATM transaction.
  8. Forex Education

    These Are The Best Hours To Trade the British Pound

    The best times to trade the British pound are centered around economic releases at 1:30 am, 2:00 am, 8:30 am and 10:00 am U.S. ET.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: SPDR EURO STOXX 50

    Learn about FEZ, the Euro Stoxx 50 ETF. FEZ tracks the 50 largest companies in Europe, making it the Dow Jones Industrial Average of Europe.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Analysis: iShares MSCI South Africa

    Learn more about the iShares MSCI South Africa fund, which is an NYSE-listed exchange-traded fund offered and managed by BlackRock.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Brazil, Russia, India And China ...

    An acronym for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China ...
  2. Good Student Discount

    An auto insurance policy discount available to young drivers ...
  3. Optimal Currency Area

    The geographic area in which a single currency would create the ...
  4. European Monetary System - EMS

    A 1979 arrangement between several European countries which links ...
  5. European Sovereign Debt Crisis

    A period of time in which several European countries faced the ...
  6. Sprexit

    Sprexit, or SPanish euRo exit, is the possible case of Spain ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. How is the value of a pip determined?

    A pip in foreign exchange trading is a measure of a price movement in a currency pair. "Pip" is an acronym for price interest ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How is a block chain network useful for trading goods and assets in virtual currencies?

    Perhaps the most famous quote associated with blockchain technology came from an anonymous virtual currency user, who described ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What kinds of costs are included in Free on Board (FOB) shipping?

    Free on board (FOB) shipping is a trade term published by the International Chamber of Commerce or ICC, that indicates which ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What types of companies benefit from reporting results utilizing constant currencies ...

    Any company that does a substantial amount of business in foreign countries, and is therefore subject to foreign currency ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the differences between B-shares and H-shares traded on Chinese stock exchanges?

    Equity listings in China generally fall under three primary categories: A shares, B shares and H shares. B shares represent ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the differences between H-shares and A-shares on Chinese and Hong Kong stock ...

    Publicly trade companies in China generally fall under three share categories: A shares, B shares and H-shares. A-shares ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!