Why is a dollar called a dollar and a pound a pound?

From country to country, monetary units vary nearly as much as the cultures and languages that use them.

The World Economic Forum recently explained the origins of the names of the world’s most common currencies:

 Currencies of the World
Image: Chartsbin



The dollar is the world’s most common currency, used in the US, Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, and Singapore and elsewhere.

According to OxfordWords, the Flemish or Low German word “joachimsthal” referred to Joachim’s Valley, where silver was once mined. Coins minted from this mine became “joachimsthaler,” which was later shortened to “thaler” and which eventually morphed into “dollar.”

Chinese yuan, Japanese yen, and Korean won Chinese currency china

The Chinese character “圓,” meaning “round” or “round coin,” is responsible for the name of the Chinese yuan, Japanese yen, and Korean won.


Many Scandinavian countries use a currency that derives from the Latin word “corona,” meaning “crown.”

Sweden’s krona, Norway’s krone, Denmark’s krone, Iceland’s króna, and the Estonian kroon (now replaced by the euro), and the Czech Republic’s koruna all derive from the same Latin root.


Jordan, Algeria, Serbia, and Kuwait all call their currency “dinar.”

This is a pretty straightforward truncation of the Latin word “denarius,” which was a silver coin used in ancient Rome.


The Italian and Turkish “lira” come from the Latin word “libra,” meaning “pound.”


Before the euro, the Deutsche mark and the Finnish markka also draw their names from units of weight.                                                                                                                    


“Peso” literally means “weight” in Spanish.


The British pound is derived from the Latin word “poundus” meaning “weight.”

Egypt, Lebanon, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria call their currency pound.


Like the dollar, South Africa’s rand comes from the Dutch name for the South African area of Witwatersrand, an area rich in gold.


The Latin word “regalis,” meaning “royal,” is the origin for the Omani and Iranian “rial.”

Similarly, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen all use a currency called the “riyal.” Before the euro, Spain used “reals” as well.


 When coins were minted in precious metals, thieves would shave off small portions of the metal to create new coins.

To combat this, countries began minting coins with jagged edges.

The Malaysian word for jagged is “ringgit,” the name of the currency


Russia’s and Belarus’ ruble are named after a measure of weight for silver.


The Sanskrit word for wrought silver is “rupya,” which lends its name to the Indian and Pakistani rupee, as well as Indonesia’s rupiah.


“Zloty” is the Polish word for “golden.”

Source: OxfordWords