WHAT is 'Currency Symbol'

A currency symbol is a graphical symbol that substitutes the name of the currency, which is usually unique to a specific country or region. These shorthand currency identifiers, which the International Organization For Standardization (ISO) maintains, often appear instead of formal currency names in international and domestic markets.

BREAKING DOWN 'Currency Symbol'

Currency symbols aren't unique to all currencies, and currencies that do have one project a higher status. Some currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, $, and the British pound sterling, £, have become instantly recognizable around the world.

In 2009, the Indian government aimed to raise the status of its currency, the rupee, by assigning it a currency symbol. The Indian Ministry of Finance announced that it would accept idea submission from the public, requesting that proposed symbols represent the historical and cultural ethos of the country as widely accepted across the country. The winning design, ₹, was submitted by Udaya Kumar Dharmalingam, a professor of design at Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati.

Many view the symbol for the euro, €, as a design and public-relations success, as the symbol has become recognizable around the world. People dispute, however, who the actual designer of the symbol is. The European Commission won’t divulge the name of the author, but many assume that  Belgian graphic designer Alain Billiet is responsible, but Arthur Eisenmenger, a former chief graphic designer for the European Economic Community, claims the idea was his.

The History of Currency Symbols

The dollar symbol, $, is perhaps the most recognizable in the world, and is the name of more than twenty currencies around the globe, including the United States, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. The word dollar can be traced back to Bohemia in the 16th century, and people used it to describe money in many places throughout Europe, including Spain. It is thought that the dollar symbol derives from the word peso, which means weight in Spanish. Scribes would sometimes abbreviate peso by writing an s with a line through it.

The British Pound sterling, symbolized by £, was the currency which dominated the global economy before the U.S. dollar. The pound sterling is so symbolized because of the Latin word libra, which means scales or balance. Monetary nomenclature is often related weights and measures, as well as precious metals like gold or silver. The pound sterling was originally valued against silver, with King Henry II introducing a coin that was struck from 92.5% silver, a purity grade known today as sterling silver.

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