The surprising history of currency symbols

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Currency signs, such as £, $ or ₹ instantly describe our currency systems and allow universal recognition. They create an identity for a currency, but where do they come from? Below you’ll find some examples of currency symbols we all know well, and how they came about:

Pound Sterling: £
The origin of the British pound symbol goes back to our Roman history and comes from an abbreviation for weight ‘libra pondus’. This gives us both its name – ‘poundus’ - and its shape – the capital L (from libra). You may be interested to know that this word also gave us lb. as a measure of weight.

US Dollar: $
The $ symbol appeared in the 1770s and although there’s much speculation about its origin, we do know it comes from Spanish colonists of that country. As it looks like the number 8, many believe it comes from the Spanish ‘pieces of eight’ silver coin, or the handwritten 'ps', an abbreviation for 'peso' in old Spanish-American books. The two lines through the S represent the stability of the currency.

Indian Rupee: ₹
Although the rupee itself dates back to circa 6th century BC, its symbol is one of the newest on the planet. The symbol became official in 2010, following a contest where five top designers pitted their best ideas. The five symbols can be seen here. The winning designer, Udaya Kumar, was inspired by the unique scripts used in India, using the Devanagari ‘ra’ and Roman script ‘R’ to represent the currencies, rupiya and rupee.

euro: €
On January 1, 1999, the euro became the official currency of over 305 million EU state citizens, taking over from their own individual country currencies. The symbol was chosen by competition with the public voting for their favorite, but ultimately the winner was selected by the European Commission. The inspiration for the symbol was the Greek letter ‘epsilon’. Which is ‘e ’in English and the first letter of ‘Europe’. Like the dollar, the two lines through the E represent the stability of the currency.

Al Rayan Bank makes international money transfers easy and fast. We offer a service that provides a secure way to transfer across different currencies. To find out more, please ring our Customer Services team on 0800 408 6407 [Mon - Fri: 9am to 7pm. Sat: 9am to 1pm] or click here.

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