Dollar sign

The dollar sign or peso sign ($ or ) is a symbol used to indicate the units of various currencies around the world, including the peso and the US dollar. The symbol can interchangeably have one or two vertical strokes. In common usage, the sign appears to the left of the amount specified, e.g. "$1", read as "one dollar".

Dollar sign
Other namespeso sign
In UnicodeU+0024 $ DOLLAR SIGN (HTML $)
Currencymany (see dollar, peso)
Graphical variants
See alsoU+20B1 PESO SIGN (HTML ₱) (Philippine peso)


There are several hypotheses about the origin of the dollar sign.

The sign is first attested in Spanish American, American, Canadian, Mexican, and other British business correspondence in the 1770s, referring to the Spanish American peso,[1][2] also known as "Spanish dollar" or "piece of eight" in North America, which provided the model for the currency that the United States adopted in 1792 and the larger coins of the new Spanish American republics such as the Mexican peso, Peruvian eight-real, and Bolivian eight-sol coins.

This explanation holds that the sign evolved out of the Spanish and Spanish American scribal abbreviation "pˢ" for pesos. A study of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century manuscripts shows that the s gradually came to be written over the p, developing into a close equivalent to the "$" mark.[3][4][5][6][7] A variation, though less plausible, of this hypothesis derives the sign from a combination of the Greek character "psi" (ψ) and "S".[8]

Other hypotheses

There are a number of other hypotheses about the origin of the symbol, some with a measure of academic acceptance, others the symbolic equivalent of false etymologies.[9]

Among the various hypotheses, the simplest one is that the barred S is actually a typo modified 8, from its obvious link with the pieces of eight, the popular name of the Spanish dollar. The added (single or double) bar should be the same commonly used to distinguish a letter dedicated to a currency value, like £.

Kingdom of Sicily deniers minted by Manfred of Hohenstaufen in the Kingdom of Sicily between 1258 and 1266 had what can be construed as an early dollar symbol. These coins were widely circulated outside Europe due to the Crusades, including the Crusade that targeted Tunis.

Pillars of Hercules

Another hypothesis holds that the sign derives from the symbolic representation of the Pillars of Hercules. This representation can have either a banner separately around each pillar, or, as in the Spanish coat of arms, a banner curling between them.

In 1492, Ferdinand II of Aragon adopted the symbol of the Pillars of Hercules and added the Latin warning Non plus ultra meaning "nothing further beyond", indicating "this is the end of the (known) world". But when Christopher Columbus came to America, the legend was changed to Plus ultra, meaning "further beyond". The Pillars of Hercules wrapped in a banner thus became a symbol of the New World. The link between this symbol and the dollar sign is more clearly seen in Spanish coins of the period, which show two pillars, each with a separate banner, rather than one banner spanning both pillars. In this example the right-hand pillar resembles the dollar sign, and additionally directly relates to the use of money.

The symbol was adopted by Charles V and was part of his coat of arms representing Spain's American possessions. The symbol was later stamped on coins minted in gold and silver. The coin, also known as Spanish dollar, was the first global currency used in the world since the Spanish Empire was the first global empire. These coins, depicting the pillars over two hemispheres and a small "S"-shaped ribbon around each, were spread throughout America, Europe, and Asia. According to this, traders wrote signs that, instead of saying "Spanish dollar" (piece of eight, real de a ocho in Spanish or peso duro), had this symbol made by hand, and this in turn evolved into a simple S with two vertical bars. When the United States gained their independence from Great Britain, they created the US dollar, but in its early decades they continued to use the Spanish dollar, which was more trusted in all markets.

The United States, even after independence, was still using the pound sterling as currency. This is attested in state legislation of the early 1780s, referring to pounds[10] and pence,[11] which predated the U.S. Constitution and federal legislation.

Given the origin of this theory – related to Spanish (and Portuguese) colonisation of the Americas – it is likely that the cifrão or peso signs share the same origin, and that the double stroke usage is merely a stylistic variant, rather than a distinct character.

Drawn with two vertical lines

Several alternative hypotheses relate specifically to the dollar sign drawn with two vertical lines.

From "U.S."

A dollar sign with two vertical lines could have started off as a monogram of 'USA', used on money bags issued by the United States Mint. The letters U and S superimposed resemble the historical double-stroke dollar sign : the bottom of the 'U' disappears into the bottom curve of the 'S', leaving two vertical lines. It is postulated in the papers of Dr. James Alton James, a professor of history at Northwestern University from 1897 to 1935, that the symbol with two strokes was an adapted design of the patriot Robert Morris in 1778.[12] Robert Morris was such a zealous patriot – known as the "Financier of the Revolution in the West" – that James came to believe that this hypothesis is viable.[13] A similar idea claims that the letters U and S would stand for unit of silver, referencing pieces of eight again, but that is unlikely since one would expect it to be in Spanish instead.

The $1 United States Note issued by the United States in 1869 uses a dollar sign consisting of a partially overlapping U and S, with one of the bars of the U intersecting the S.[14]

German thaler

Another hypothesis is that it derives from the symbol used on a German Thaler. According to Ovason (2004), on one type of thaler one side showed a crucifix 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).

A similar symbol, constructed by superposition of "S" and "I" or "J", was used to denote German Joachimsthaler ("S" and "J" standing for St. Joachim who gave his name to the place where the first thalers were minted). It was known in the English-speaking world by the 17th century, appearing in 1686 edition of An Introduction to Merchants' Accounts by John Collins.[15]

Later history

Robert Morris was the first to use this symbol in official documents and in official communications with Oliver Pollock. The U.S. dollar was directly based on the Spanish Milled Dollar when, in the Coinage Act of 1792, the first Mint Act, its value was fixed (per the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, clause 1 power of the United States Congress "To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures") as being "of the value of a Spanish milled dollar as the same is now current, and to contain three hundred and seventy-one grains and four sixteenth parts of a grain of pure, or four hundred and sixteen grains of standard silver".

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 immigrants John Baine, Archibald Binney, and James Ronaldson.

The dollar sign did not appear on U.S. coinage until February 2007, when it was used on the reverse of a $1 coin authorized by the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005.[16]

The dollar sign appears as early as 1847 on the $100 Mexican War notes and the reverse of the 1868 $1000 United States note.[17] The dollar sign also appears on the reverse of the 1934 $100,000 note.

In Japanese and Korean, the Han character 弗 has been repurposed to represent the dollar sign due to its visual similarity.

Use in computer software

The dollar sign is one of the few symbols that are almost universally present in computer character sets but rarely needed in their literal meanings within computer software. As a result, the character has been used on computers for many purposes unrelated to money. Its uses in programming languages have often influenced or provoked its uses in operating systems and applications.


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

  • U+0024  $  DOLLAR SIGN (HTML $) ($ in HTML5[18])

There are no separate characters for one- and two-line variants. This is typeface-dependent.

There are also three other code points that originate from other East Asian standards: the Taiwanese small form variant, the CJK fullwidth form, and the Japanese emoji. The glyphs for these code points are typically larger or smaller than the primary code point, but the difference is mostly aesthetic or typographic, and the meanings of the symbols are the same.


However, for usage as the special character in various computing applications (see following sections), U+0024 is typically the only code that is recognized.

Programming languages

  • $ was used for defining string variables in older versions of the BASIC language ("$" was often pronounced "string" instead of "dollar" in this use).
  • $ is used for defining hexadecimal constants in Pascal-like languages such as Delphi, and in some variants of assembly language.
  • $ is prefixed to names to define variables in the PHP language and the AutoIt automation script language, scalar variables in the Perl language (see sigil (computer programming)), and global variables in the Ruby language. In Perl programming this includes scalar elements of arrays $array[7] and hashes $hash{foo}.
  • In most shell scripting languages, $ is used for interpolating (substitution of) environment variables, special variables, arithmetic computations, and special characters, and for performing translation of localised strings. Christopher Stratchey's GPM, the inspiration for the Multics shell, used the non-ASCII symbol § for macro expansion.
  • $ is used in the ALGOL 68 language to delimit transput format regions.
  • $ is used in the TeX typesetting language to delimit mathematical regions.
  • 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 to put a visible separation between words in compound identifiers. For example, 'Some$Name' refers to the same thing as 'SomeName'.
  • In Haskell, $ is used as a function application operator.
  • In an AutoHotkey script, a hotkey declared with $ is not triggered by a 'Send' command elsewhere in the script.
  • In several JavaScript frameworks such as Prototype.js and jQuery, $ is a common utility class, and is often referred to as the buck.
  • In JavaScript from ES6 onward it is used inside template literals to insert the value of a variable. For example, if var word = such then `as ${word}` would equal 'as such'
  • In C#, $ marks a string literal as an interpolated string.
  • In ASP.NET, the dollar sign used in a tag in the web page indicates an expression will follow it. The expression that follows is .NET language-agnostic, as it will work with c#,, or any CLR supported language.
  • In Erlang, the dollar sign precedes character literals. The dollar sign as a character can be written $.
  • In COBOL the $ sign is used in the Picture clause to depict a floating currency symbol as the left most character. The default symbol is $ however if the CURRENCY= or CURRENCY SIGN clause is specified, any single symbol can be used.
  • In some assembly languages, such as MIPS, the $ sign is used to represent registers.
  • In Honeywell 6000 series assembler, the $ sign, when used as an address, meant the address of the instruction in which it appeared.
  • In CMS-2, the $ sign is used as a statement terminator.
  • In Q (programming language from Kx Systems), the $ sign is used as a casting/padding/enumeration/conditional operator.
  • In Sass, the $ sign is prefixed to define a variable.

Operating systems

  • In CP/M and subsequently in all versions of DOS (86-DOS, MS-DOS, PC DOS, more) and derivatives, $ is used as a string terminator (Int 21h with AH=09h).
    • $ is used by the prompt command to insert special sequences into the DOS command prompt string.
  • In Microsoft Windows, $ is appended to the share name to hide a shared folder or resource. For example, "\\server\share" will be visible to other computers on a network, while "\\server\share$" will be accessible only by explicit reference. Hiding a shared folder or resource will not alter its access permissions but may render it unaccessible to programs or other functions which rely on its visibility. Most administrative shares are hidden in this way.
  • 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.
    The using history expansion !$ (same as !!1$ and !-1$) means the last argument of the previous command in bash: !-2$ expands to the last argument of the penultimate command, !5$ expands into the last argument of the fifth command and so on. For example:
> touch my_first_file
> echo "This is my file." > !$
where !$ expands into my_first_file.
  • In the LDAP directory access protocol, $ is used as a line separator in various standard entry attributes such as postalAddress.
  • In the UNIVAC EXEC 8 operating system, "$" means "system". It is appended to entities such as the names of system files, the "sender" name in messages sent by the operator, and the default names of system-created files (like compiler output) when no specific name is specified (e.g., TPF$, NAME$, etc.)
  • In RISC OS, $ is used in system variables to separate the application name from the variables specific to that application. For example Draw$Dir specifies the directory where the !Draw application is located. It is also used to refer to the root directory of a file system.


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:

An exception is the Philippine peso, whose sign is written as .

The dollar sign is also still sometimes used to represent the Malaysian ringgit (which replaced the local dollar), though its official use to represent the currency has been discontinued since 1993.

Some currencies use the cifrão (), similar to the dollar sign, but always with two strokes:

Because the one bar version and the two bar version are allographs, any given font will contain one style or the other, not both. Furthermore, an electronic document written using one style may be viewed subsequently with the other style, because of font substitution. Consequently, when distinction is critical, it is best to use the three-letter acronym (USD, MXN etc, see ISO 4217).

However, in Argentina, the $ sign is always used for pesos, and if they want to indicate dollars, they always write U$S 5 or US$5 (5 US dollars).

In the United States, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Pacific Island nations, and English-speaking Canada, the dollar or peso symbol precedes the number. Five dollars or pesos is written and printed as $5, whereas five cents is written as 5¢. In French-speaking Canada, the dollar symbol usually appears after the number (5$).

In games and virtual worlds

Some virtual world and gaming platforms have used the $ symbol to refer to their own virtual currencies, for example:

  • R$ - Robux (Roblox) (not to be confused with Brazilian real)
  • S$ - Sansar Dollars (Sansar)
  • L$ - Linden Dollars (Second Life)

Other uses

The symbol is sometimes used derisively to indicate greed or excess money such as in "Micro$oft", "George Luca$", "Lar$ Ulrich", "Di$ney", "Chel$ea" and "GW$"; or supposed overt Americanisation as in "$ky". The dollar sign is also used intentionally to stylize names such as A$AP Rocky, Ke$ha, and Ty Dolla $ign or words such as ¥€$. In 1872, Ambrose Bierce referred to the California Governor as $tealand Landford.[20]

In Scrabble notation, a dollar sign is placed after a word to indicate that it is valid according to the North American word lists, but not according to the British word lists.[21]

The dollar sign was used as a letter in Turkmen alphabet from 1993 to 1999.

See also


  1. Kinnaird, Lawrence (July 1976). "The Western Fringe of Revolution". The Western Historical Quarterly. 7 (3): 259. JSTOR 967081.
  2. Popular Science (February 1930). "Origin of Dollar Sign is Traced to Mexico". Popular Science: 59. ISSN 0161-7370.
  3. Cajori, Florian (1993) [1929]. A History of Mathematical Notations. 2. pp. 15–29.
  4. Aiton, Arthur S.; Wheeler, Benjamin W. (May 1931). "The First American Mint". The Hispanic American Historical Review. 11 (2): 198. JSTOR 2506275.
  5. Nussbaum, Arthur (1957). A History of the Dollar. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 56. The foreign coins remained in circulation [in the United States], and the more important among them, especially the Spanish (including the Mexican) dollars, were declared by Congress on February 9, 1793, to be legal tender. The dollar sign, $, is connected with the peso, contrary to popular belief, which considers it to be an abbreviation of 'U.S.' The two parallel lines represented one of the many abbreviations of 'P,' and the 'S' indicated the plural. The abbreviation '$.' was also used for the peso, and is still used in Argentina.
  6. 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. p. 350. ISBN 84-300-9090-8.
  7. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. "What is the origin of the $ sign?". Resources: FAQs. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  8. Larson, Henrietta M. (October 1939). "Note on Our Dollar Sign". Bulletin of the Business Historical Society. 13 (4): 57–58. JSTOR 3111350.
  9. 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 hypotheses and discounts them in A History of Mathematical Notations (Vol. 2), 15–20.
  10. "Massachusetts Copyright Statute,(1783), p. 370".
  11. "Maryland Copyright Statute (1783)".
  12. James, James Alton (1970) [1937]. Robert Morris: The Life and Times of an Unknown Patriot. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press. p. 356. ISBN 978-0-8369-5527-9.
  13. James, James Alton (1929). "'Robert Morris, Financier of the Revolution in the West'". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review.
  14. Reverse of $1 United States Note (Greenback), series of 1869
  15. Florence Edler de Roover. Concerning the Ancestry of the Dollar Sign. - Bulletin of the Business Historical Society. Vol. 19, No. 2 (Apr., 1945), pp. 63-64
  16. Pub. L. No. 109-145, 119 Stat. 2664 (Dec. 22, 2005).
  17. Cuhaj, p. 100, 321–22
  18. HTML5 is the only version of HTML that has a named entity for the dollar sign, see ("The following sections present the complete lists of character entity references.") and ("dollar;").
  20. Roy Morris (1995). Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company. Oxford University Press. p. 176. ISBN 9780195126280.
  21. "Scrabble Glossary". Tucson Scrabble Club. Archived from the original on 2011-08-30. Retrieved 2012-02-06.


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