What is a Currency Symbol?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A currency symbol is a symbolic representation of type of currency used, mostly designated by the country producing the currency. It shouldn’t be confused with the name for different types of money. Euro or dollar are not symbols but actual names. Instead the symbol is a substitution of a symbol meant to indicate the name. For instance in the US we may use $ to indicate US Dollars (USD).

Symbols are used to represent different forms of foreign currency.
Symbols are used to represent different forms of foreign currency.

Not all countries have currency symbols, and some symbols of the past have been swept away by the introduction of the Euro. For instance the common £ used to indicate the British pound may now be replaced with €, the currency symbol for euros. Similarly ₣ for the French Franc, ₤ for the Italian Lira, have all been replaced by € for euro.

Currency symbols include those for the U.S. dollar, the Euro and the British pound.
Currency symbols include those for the U.S. dollar, the Euro and the British pound.

Sometimes a currency symbol may be used to represent more than one country’s money. For instance Canada and America both use the $ sign for dollars. Lira and pound symbols are almost identical. The cent sign used in the US, ¢ is used in several countries to indicate fractions of money.

Both China and Japan use the symbol ¥ as their currency symbol. The symbol can refer to China’s yuan, or Japan’s yen. Other Asian countries do not use this symbol. Thailand, as an example uses ฿, as a symbol for their currency called baht.

There are different ways of notating a currency symbol when using it with a currency amount. Some countries place their symbol after the money amount, and others before it. In the US, Canada and much of Latin America, symbols tend to be placed before the money amount, with the exception of the ¢ sign, which tends to follow the amount. In Europe and in other countries, the currency symbol may follow the money amount. If something cost 20 Euros you might see this written as 20 €, but in some countries the € may precede the money amount.

There’s also some dispute about how part of a euro is expressed. If something costs 20.50 in euros, this may be written as 20€50 or €20.50. Another expression that is equally common is 20,50€, where a comma replaces the decimal point.

When you are unaware of the currency symbol for a country or if one doesn’t exist, there is a generic currency indicator. This is expressed as ¤. It should not be confused with similar currency symbols like the larger rectangle that indicates Paraguayan guarani or Ghanaian currency.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon279986

I didn't know about the generic currency symbol, but I do know that the Euro cannot replace the British Pound sign. The pound is still the official currency of the United Kingdom.

anon119251

What country does this symbol represent?

J0,000.00 or is this bogus? Thank you, anyone who answers. --Richard

CopperPipe

Does anyone know if there is a directory of foreign currency symbols? I'm looking for the Israeli currency symbol for a report, and seem to be having trouble finding it.

Can anyone help?

StreamFinder

I find it interesting how the US currency symbol has so many other applications and uses.

For instance, it is recognized almost worldwide as a representation for money. So many currencies have incorporated it in one way or another, like the Hong Kong dollar and the Singapore dollar, which are also written with the US dollar sign.

It also has cultural representations. It can represent greed in cartoons, for instance, when the character's eyes are replaced with two US dollar signs, or it can represent a person's wealth, like in the names of singers who use it to replace an "s".

All in all, a very interesting symbol and phenomenon.

FirstViolin

Cool article -- I never knew about the generic currency symbol.

I wonder in what circumstances you would use that, though.

Do enough people really know about it to make using it worthwhile, or is it particularly used in one industry?

Either way, cool fact, and nice article.

anon32848

Say i know the symbol of the currency,

but how can i tell whether if the symbol should locate at the front or at the back?

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