There are over 180 currencies the world over as recognised by the United Nations that are used by millions in their day-to-day activities. As globalization has spurred on international trade, currencies have become very fluid and transcend international borders. But have you ever stopped to think how some of the major world`s currencies got their names?
Here is a brief explainer on the origin of some of the world`s currencies, in no particular order of importance:
The British Pound is the world`s most oldest currency still in use, tracing its origins as far back as the 8th century, while the South Sudanese pound which was introduced in July 2011 is the world`s newest currency.
The word pound has its roots in the Latin word “poundus’ which loosely translates to “weight” in modern English. Some of the countries that use the pound include Cyprus, Britain, Egypt and the two Sudanese countries.
The Rand is predominantly used in South Africa, and was introduced as legal tender on 14 February 1961. Before the introduction of the Rand, the South African pound had previously been legal tender in South Africa.
Rand is derived from the Dutch name for the South African area of Witwatersrand, which is an area rich in gold deposits. Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia also recognise the Rand as legal tender.
The US Dollar is the world`s most favoured international reserve currency and is widely used across the globe. Its history is traced back to an area called Joachim`s Valley, where silver was once mined. Coins minted from this mine were known by the Flemish/Germanic name of “joachimsthaler”, which was later shortened to just “thaler.” After colonization by the British, “thaler” eventually changed to dollar.
There are about 22 countries in total that use their own form of dollars as their national currency. Most of the dollar currencies can be traced back to the original Spanish dollars (the currency of the New World), but some, such as Australian dollars, simply adopted the name ‘dollars’ when they started using the decimal system.
Chinese Yuan, Japanese Yen and Korean Won
These 3 Asian currencies have their history attributed to the mandarin character 圓, which translates to “round” in English. Copper coins were used as the chief denomination of currency in China until the introduction of the yuan in the late 19th century. Currently, the renminbi is the official currency of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It is the legal tender in mainland China, but not in Hong Kong or Macau. Renminbi literally means “ the currency of the people.”
The history of both the Japanese yen and the Korean won, draws its history from the Chinese character for “round coin.”
When coins were minted in precious metals in the early days, thieves would shave off small portions of the metals in order to create new coins. To combat this, monetary authorities began minting coins with jagged edges. The Malaysian word for jagged is “ringgit”, which is also name of the Malaysian currency.
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 krona, and the Estonian kroon as well as the Czech Republic`s koruna all derive from the same Latin root.
India and Pakistan both use the rupee, and the word derives from the Sanskrit word for wrought silver “rupya.” The Sanskrit word “rupya” also lends its name to the Indonesian rupiah.