How the world's currencies got their names

From country to country, monetary units vary nearly as much as the cultures and languages that use them. But have you ever wondered why a dollar is called a “dollar”?

A recent post on the Oxford Dictionary’s OxfordWords blog explained the origins of the names of the world’s most common currencies. In the slides below, find out where these everyday words come from.


'Peso' literally means 'weight' in Spanish.


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

Source: OxfordWords


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

Source: OxfordWords


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.

Source: OxfordWords


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

Source: OxfordWords


Norges Bank

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.

Source: OxfordWords


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.

Source: OxfordWords


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

Source: OxfordWords


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

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

Source: OxfordWords


'Zloty' is the Polish word for 'golden.'

Source: OxfordWords


The Hungarian forint comes from the Italian word 'fiorino,' a gold coin from Florence.

The fiorino had a flower, or 'fiore' in Italian, stamped on it.

Source: OxfordWords

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