What is GBP?

GBP is the abbreviation for the British pound sterling, the official currency of the United Kingdom, the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, and British Antarctic Territory and the U.K. crown dependencies the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Many other currencies are pegged to the British pound, including the Falkland Islands pound, Gibraltar pound, Saint Helena pound, Jersey pound (JEP), Guernsey pound (GGP), Manx pounds, Scotland notes. and Northern Ireland notes.

The penny sterling (plural: pence), is 1/100 of a pound. Many stocks are traded in pence rather than in pounds; in these cases, stock exchanges may use GBX or GBP to indicate the distinction between pence and pounds (GBP). Though the official name of GBP is pound sterling, "sterling" or STG may be used more commonly in accounting or foreign exchange settings.

Understanding the GBP

The British pound has one of the highest trading volumes in the world, trailing only the U.S. dollar, euro, and Japanese yen in daily volume. The British pound accounts for roughly 13% of the daily trading volume in foreign exchange markets. The pound symbol is £, while the euro symbol is €.

The most common currency pairs involving the British pound are the euro (EUR/GBP) and the U.S. dollar (GBP/USD). GBP/USD is referred to as "cable" by foreign exchange traders.

The GBP, or British pound sterling, is the oldest currency in the world that's still in active use.

The British pound sterling is symbolized by the pound sign (£) and is sometimes referred to simply as "sterling" or by the nickname "quid." Because stocks are traded in pence, the British term for pennies, investors may see stock prices listed as pence sterling, GBX or GBP.

History of the GBP

The British pound became the official currency of the United Kingdom when England and Scotland united to form a single country in 1707. However, the British pound was first created as a form of money in the year 760. The British pound is the oldest currency in the world that is still used as legal tender.

In addition to the United Kingdom, the British pound has previously served as currency in many of the colonies of the British Empire, including Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Prior to 1855, when it began printing British pound notes, the Bank of England wrote all notes by hand.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many countries enacted measures to tie the value of their currencies to the price of gold. The gold standard offered a uniform way to determine value among world currencies. Prior to World War I, the United Kingdom used the gold standard to set the value of the British pound. At the outbreak of World War I, the country abandoned the gold standard, then reinstated it in post-war 1925, only to abandon it again during the Great Depression.

In 1971, the United Kingdom let the British pound float freely against other currencies. This decision allowed market forces, rather than artificial pegs, to determine the value of the currency. In 1990, the U.K. considered tying the value of the British pound to the Deutsche Mark but abandoned this idea shortly thereafter. In 2002, when the euro became the common currency of most European Union member nations, the U.K. chose not to adopt it, but instead kept the GBP as its official currency. In a June 2016 referendum, British voters, by a slim majority, supported a measure to leave the European Union altogether, initiating a process that's commonly known as Brexit.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Bank of England. "Overview."

  2. The Bank for International Settlements. "Foreign Exchange Turnover in April 2019."

  3. The Bank for International Settlements. "Triennial Central Bank Survey Foreign Exchange Turnover in April 2019," Page 11.

  4. CMC Markets. "What Is the World’s Oldest Currency?"

  5. UK Parliament. "Act of Union 1707."

  6. European Commission. "20 Years of the Euro in Your Pocket."

  7. UK Parliament. "The ERM and the Single Currency."

  8. European Union. "Brexit: EU-UK Relationship."

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.