Where the world’s currencies get their names from

The Oxford Dictionary has posted an insightful piece on the where currencies from around the world got their names from- including the South African rand.

The rand was named after the Witwatersrand – the are around Johannesburg known for its gold deposits.

It was first introduced in 1961, when South Africa gained its independence as a republic, moving away from the the denominations of pounds, shillings and pence.

The rand is one of the few currencies that are named after location rather than being a literal derivative of their composition, weight or lineage – but it is still tied to gold, which is the origin of a number of currencies.

Here are how currencies around the world got their names:

The first dollar coin
The first dollar coin


The origin of the dollar, also the Slovenian tolar, is from a coin called the Joachimsthaler, shortened to Thaler (or dalerin early Flemish or Low German), named after the valley in which the silver it was made from was mined, the Joachimsthal, literally ‘Joachim’s valley’.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, this was later applied in American colonies as well, before being adopted as the official name of the US money.

Dollar is also used by Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand and Singapore, among others.

Countries such as Jordan, Algeria, Serbia and Kuwait use the dinar, which comes from the Latin denarius – an ancient Roman silver coin.

India and Pakistan use the rupee, which is from the Sanskrit rupya, which means ‘wrought silver’ – also the origin of the Indonesian rupiah.


Along with the South African rand, Poland‘s zloty and Hungary‘s forint both have ties to gold. Zloty means “golden” in Polish, while the forint is based on the Italian fiorino, originally a golden coin from Florence, Italy.

Gold Kurgerrand
Gold Kurgerrand

Shape and texture

When coins were made of precious metals, serrated edges were introduced to stop people from scraping value off of the coins. The Malaysian ringgit is from Malay from “jagged”, and refers to the texture of the Spanish coins used before the ringgit was introduced.

The Chinese yuan, Japanese yen and Korean won all originate from the Chinese character that means “round” or “round coin”.

Royal Crown

Swedish krona, Norwegian krone, Danish krone, Icelandic krona, Estonian kroon and Czech koruna all derive from the Latin corona, meaning crown.

Other regions which hail to royal origins are the Spanish and Brazilian real, which derives from the latin regalis, meaning royal. Oman and Iran with the rial and Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Yemen with the riyal, share the same origin.

British pound coin
British pound coin


Many countries use and used measurements of weight for their money:

Germany and Finland with the mark and markka – which were units of measurement. Both countries now use the euro.

Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Philippines, Chile, Uruguay, Cuba and Colombia have the peso – which means ‘weight’ in Spanish.

Russia‘s ruble was originally a measure of the weight of silver – while the British pound comes from the Latin pondus, meaning weight.

The Italian and Turkish lira also hail from weight, from the Latin libra, meaning pound.

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Where the world’s currencies get their names from