Dollar sign: Wikis


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The dollar or peso sign is a symbol primarily used to indicate the various dollar and peso units of currency around the world.



The sign is attested in business correspondence between the British, Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans in the 1770s, as referring to the Spanish-Mexican peso,[1][2] known as "Spanish dollar" or "pieces of eight" in British North America where it was adopted as U.S. currency in 1785, together with the term "dollar" and the $ sign.

The origin of the "$" sign has been variously accounted for. Perhaps the most widely accepted explanation is that it is the result of the evolution of the Spanish and Mexican scribal abbreviation "ps" for pesos. This theory, derived from a study of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century manuscripts, explains that the s gradually came to be written over the p developing a close equivalent to the "$" mark."[3][4][5]

Alternative hypotheses

There are a number of other theories about the origin of the symbol, some with a measure of academic acceptance, others the symbolic equivalent of folk etymologies.[6]

Drawn with one vertical line ($)

Slash 8

That the dollar sign is derived from a slash through the numeral eight, denoting pieces of eight. The Oxford English Dictionary before 1963 held that this was the most probable explanation, though later editions have placed it in doubt.[citation needed]

Potosi mint mark

Image of 1768 Spanish Colonial Real silver coin, showing PTSI mint mark in lower right and left quadrants and the Pillars of Hercules surrounding a picture of the world.

That the dollar sign was derived from or inspired by the mint mark on the Spanish pieces of eight that were minted in Potosí (in present day Bolivia). The mint mark was composed of the letters "PTSI" superimposed on one another and bear an undeniable resemblance to the single-stroke dollar sign (see above photo). The mark, which appeared on silver coins minted from 1573 to 1825 in Potosí, the largest mint during the colonial period, would have been widely recognized throughout the North American colonies.[citation needed]

Alchemic sigil for cinnabar

An alchemic sigil for cinnabar dating at least as far back as the early eighteenth century. [7]

Greek mythology

That the dollar sign may have also originated from Hermes, the Greek god of bankers, thieves, messengers, and tricksters: Besides the crane, one of his symbols was the caduceus, a staff from which ribbons or snakes dangled in a sinuous curve.[citation needed]

Drawn with two vertical lines

Spanish coat of arms

That the dollar sign derives from the Spanish coat of arms engraved on the Spanish colonial silver coins. The Spanish coat of arms on the coins includes two columns, the Pillars of Hercules and a small "S"-shaped ribbon around each, with the motto "Plus Ultra".[8]

From 'US'

That $ is a monogram of U. S., used on money bags issued by the United States Mint. The letters U and S superimposed resemble the historical double stroke "$" sign: the bottom of the 'U' disappears into the bottom curve of the 'S', leaving two vertical lines. This theory, popularized by novelist Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged [9], does not consider the fact that the symbol was already in use before the formation of the United States.[10]

"Unit of silver"

That it derives from "unit of silver", each unit being one "bit" of the "pieces of eight". Before the American Revolution, prices were often quoted in units of the Spanish dollar. According to this theory, when a price was quoted the capital 'S' was used to indicate silver with a capital 'U' written on top to indicate units. Eventually the capital 'U' was replaced by double vertical hash marks.

German Thaler

That it derives from the symbol used on a German Thaler. According to Ovason (2004), on one type of thaler one side showed the crucified Christ while the other showed a serpent hanging from a cross, the letters NU near the serpent's head, and on the other side of the cross the number 21. This refers to the Bible, Numbers, Chapter 21 (see Nehushtan).[citation needed]

Roman sestertius

That the dollar sign goes back to the most important Roman coin, the sestertius, which had the letters 'HS' as its currency sign. When superimposed these letters form a dollar sign with two vertical strokes (the horizontal line of the 'H' merging into the 'S').

Later history of the dollar sign

According to a plaque in St Andrews, Scotland, the dollar sign was first cast into type at a foundry in Philadelphia, United States in 1797 by the Scottish immigrant John Baine.

The plaque in St. Andrews.

The dollar sign did not appear on U.S. coinage until February 2007,[citation needed] when it was used on the reverse of a $1 coin authorized by the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005.[11]

The dollar sign appears on the reverse of the 1934 $100,000 note as well as the reverse of the 1917 $1 note.[citation needed]

Use in computer programming

The symbol "$" has Unicode code point U+0024 (inherited from Latin-1).

As the dollar sign is one of the few symbols that are, on the one hand, almost universally present in computer character sets, but, on the other hand, rarely needed in their literal meaning within programming languages, the $ character has been used on computers for many purposes not related to money, including:

  • $ was used as a string terminator in CP/M and subsequently also in all versions of 86-DOS, PC-DOS, MS-DOS and derivatives (Int 21h with AH=09h)
  • $ signifies the end of a line or the file in text editors ed, ex, vi, pico and derivatives, and, as a consequence:
  • $ matches the end of a line or string in sed, grep, and POSIX and Perl regular expressions.
  • $ was used for defining string variables in older versions of the BASIC programming language ("$" was often pronounced "string" instead of "dollar" in this use).
  • $ is used for defining hexadecimal constants in Pascal-like languages such as Delphi, as well as in certain variants of assembly language.
  • $ is used at the beginnings of names to define variables in the PHP programming language and the AutoIt automation script language, scalar variables in the Perl programming language (see Sigil (computer programming)), and global variables in the Ruby programming language.
  • In most shell scripting languages, $ is used for interpolating environment variables, special variables, arithmetic computations and special characters, and for performing translation of localised strings.
  • In Unix-like systems the $ is often part of the command prompt, depending on the user's shell and environment settings. For example, the default environment settings for the bash shell specify $ as part of the command prompt.
  • $ is used in the TeX typesetting language to delimit mathematical regions.
  • $ is used by the prompt command in DOS to insert special sequences into the DOS command prompt string.
  • Formulas in Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheets use $ to indicate an absolute cell reference.
  • In many versions of FORTRAN 66, $ could be used as an alternative to a quotation mark for delimiting strings.
  • In PL/M, $ can be used for putting a visible separation between syllables of identifiers.
    For example, 'Some$Name' will refer to the same thing as 'SomeName' in PL/M.
  • In the LDAP directory access protocol, $ is used as a line separator in various standard entry attributes such as postalAddress.
  • In Haskell, $ is used as a function application operator.
  • In Microsoft Windows, $ is used at the end of the share name to hide a shared folder. For example, \\server\share will be visible and accessible through browsing, while \\server\share$ will only be accessible by explicit reference.

Currencies that use the dollar or peso sign

In addition to those countries of the world that use dollars or pesos, a number of other countries use the $ symbol to denote their currencies, including:

Except the Philippine peso, whose sign is written as PhilippinePeso.svg.

Some currencies use the cifrão (\mathrm{S}\!\!\!\Vert ), similar to the dollar sign, but always with two strokes:

The cifrão is also used to account for over 130,000,000 domestic standard US Mint (1986+) bullion US silver dollars as one dollar per one troy ounce fine (99.9%), thereby avoiding confusion with debased US trade dollar-denominated tokens and Federal Reserve Notes.[citation needed]

In Mexico and another peso-using countries, the cifrão is used as a dollar sign when a document uses pesos and dollars at the same time, to avoid confusions, but, when it used alone, usually is represented as $USD (United States Dollars). Example: $5USD (Five dollars).[citation needed]

In the United States, the dollar symbol precedes the number, unlike almost all other units. Five dollars is written and printed as $5, whereas five cents is written as 5¢.

See also


  1. ^ Lawrence Kinnaird (July 1976). "The Western Fringe of Revolution," The Western Historical Quarterly 7(3), 259.
  2. ^ "Origin of Dollar Sign is Traced to Mexico", Popular Science 116 (2): 59, 1930, ISSN 0161-7370,,M1 
  3. ^ Florian Cajori ([1929]1993). A History of Mathematical Notations (Vol. 2), 15-29.
  4. ^ Arthur S. Aiton and Benjamin W. Wheeler (May 1931). "The First American Mint", The Hispanic American Historical Review 11(2), 198 and note 2 on 198.
  5. ^ Riesco Terrero, Ángel (1983). Diccionario de abreviaturas hispanas de los siglos XIII al XVIII: Con un apendice de expresiones y formulas juridico-diplomaticas de uso corriente. Salamanca: Imprenta Varona, 350. ISBN 84-300-9090-8
  6. ^ F. Cajori discusses the origins of the slash-8, the Potosi mint mark, the Pillars of Hercules, the "U.S.", the Roman sestertius, and the Boaz and Jachin theories and discounts them in A History of Mathematical Notations (Vol. 2), 15-20.
  7. ^ Gettings, Fred (1981). The Dictionary of Occult, Hermetic, and Alchemical Sigils and Symbols. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. p. 86. ISBN 0-7100-0095-2. 
  8. ^ Nussbaum, Arthur: A history of the dollar. New York : Columbia University Press, 1957.
  9. ^ Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. 1957. Signet. 1992. p628
  10. ^ James, James Alton (1970) [1937]. Oliver Pollock: The Life and Times of an Unknown Patriot. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press. p. 356. ISBN 9780836955279. 
  11. ^ Pub. L. No. 109-145, 119 Stat. 2664 (Dec. 22, 2005).

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