World Currencies and Abbreviations
Last updated: 7-Apr-2010
There are many different currencies in use in the world. A few have special
symbols to represent them but most use the first letter of the currency
name. Although the first letter of the currency name works well when
describing a local currency, in an international context it leads to
confusion. Does P20 mean 20 Pesetas, Pesos, Pounds, Pataca, Pa'anga or
something else? And if it means 20 Pesos, are they Argentinian Pesos,
Bolivian Pesos, Chilean Pesos, Colombian Pesos, or some other variety of
Peso? For this reason we need an unambiguous, unique, standardized
(and preferably short) way of referring to each currency.
Although there are special symbols for some currencies, many of them
cause problems when used in e-mail, news postings or on web pages. For
this reason we need a method of representation that passes unchanged
and without difficulty in all of these media.
The solution, long used by the international banking community, is
the ISO 4217 set of currency abbreviations.
ISO 4217 (Codes for the Representation of Currencies and Funds)
defines three-letter abbreviations for world currencies. The general
principle used to construct these abbreviations is to take the two-letter
abbreviations defined in ISO 3166 (Codes for the
Representation of Names of Countries) and append the first letter of the
currency name (e.g., USD for the United States Dollar).
In the case of currencies defined by supra-national entities, ISO 4217
assigns two-letter entity codes starting with "X" to use in
place of country codes (e.g., XCD for the Central Caribbean Dollar).
Although ISO standards are not, in general, available on line, the country
codes of ISO 3166 can be found at iso-3166-code-lists.
When to Use Currency Abbreviations
Depending upon whether you are using e-mail, news or the web, some
currency symbols may be used but many others should not be used.
The long answer is rather complicated. The short
- In e-mail and news, the only currency symbol that may safely be used is
$ (the dollar symbol). To express a value in any other currency you
should use the ISO 4217 three-letter currency
abbreviation (e.g., GBP 10 for £10).
- In HTML, the only currency symbols that may safely be used are:
$ (dollar), ¢ (cent), £ (pound/punt/lira),
¥ (yen) and ¤ (generic currency). Enter all but the
dollar symbol by using HTML numeric character codes: ¢
for ¢, £ for £, ¥ for
¥ and ¤ for ¤. (Note that the symbol for the lira is not in common use.) To express a value in any
other currency you should use the ISO 4217 three-letter currency abbreviation (e.g.,
GBP 10 for £10).
The short answer simplifies the situation somewhat, but if you follow it
you will never be wrong. Ignore the advice (and that given
in the long answer) and you will cause problems
for others, if not also for yourself.
Common Currency Abbreviations
The currency abbreviations that are most commonly seen, and required in E-mail
and news, are those which have symbols in the ISO 8859/1 (Latin 1)
character set. These are:
- United States Dollar ($). The only currency symbol that can safely be
used in E-mail and news.
- Pound Sterling [United Kingdom Pound] (£)
- The use of "GB" for "The United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland" surprises some people. However, the
United Kingdom and the Ukraine both wanted "UK" so rather than
start World War III over the matter, the United Kingdom was assigned
"GB" and the Ukraine was assigned "UA."
- An incorrect abbreviation for the Pound Sterling (use GBP instead)
- Italian Lira (£)
- Japanese Yen (¥)
Also found in the DOS/Windows 3 CP 1252 character set (which covers
all valid ISO 8859/1 characters) is the symbol for the Dutch Guilder (an
"f" with a hook). This character is assigned to a position
reserved for a control code and it is incorrect to use this character to
represent the guilder symbol in any Internet medium - it is
always wrong to use this symbol from the CP 1252 character set
on the Internet. Use the abbreviation NLG instead.
Some years ago Microsoft amended the DOS/Windows CP l252 character
set to include the Euro currency symbol. If you have fonts which conform
to this extended version of CP 1252 it is incorrect to use this
character to represent the Euro symbol in any Internet
medium - it is always wrong to use this symbol from the
extended CP 1252 character set on the Internet. Use the abbreviation
Changing Countries and Currencies
The world is in constant flux.
Countries change their names or split into two or more smaller countries or
merge with another country. Some "countries" given country
codes by ISO 3166 are colonies or dependencies of other countries.
Currencies are revalued without a change of name or revalued with a change
of name or change name without being revalued. Countries may adopt the
currency of another country or stop using the currency of another country
and create their own currency. In some countries other currencies, besides
the official currency, circulate and are accepted.
Some countries (mainly colonies and dependencies of other countries) have
currencies which are theoretically different from their parent country but
which are actually pegged at a 1:1 exchange ratio. All that really changes
is the wording and pictures on the banknotes. E.g., the Falkland Pound
(FKP) is theoretically a different currency to the Pound Sterling (GBP) but
in practice is pegged at a 1:1 exchange ratio.
In these pages, currencies are listed against a particular country where
they circulate, whether those currencies are the official currency of
a country or whether they are unofficially acceptable. Because of
transitions from one currency to another, currencies are also listed
against a particular country if they have circulated in that country in
the recent past.
The following European Union countries adopted the Euro at the start of 2002:
Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg,
The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Other countries which were previously using
one of the superseded currencies also adopted the Euro. Slovenia adopted the Euro
at the start of 2007, Cyprus and Malta at the beginning of 2008 and Slovakia at
the beginning of 2009.
Use of Tables
The nature of the information in these pages is such that the only feasible
option for displaying it was to use HTML tables. Since some browsers cannot
display tables, three tricks (all valid HTML) have been used to ensure that
the information should be readable (although not particularly pretty) on
Browsers which can display tables will have to download the whole file (most
of these are quite large so this may take a little while) and then have
a think about how best to fit the information into columns before they
can start to display the information. This means that you will not
see the information displayed immediately - please be patient.
We have compiled this information from several on-line and off-line sources.
Many of the sources have discrepancies and omissions. Some of the errors
have obviously been copied from one on-line source to another (such as
"Syrian potmd" for the Syrian pound).
We have attempted to rectify as many of the discrepancies and omissions
as possible and tried not to introduce errors of our own.
However there have been only limited updates since 1999, and it is unlikely
that all the information is up to date. You use it at your own risk.
There are four pages of world currency information:
- Listed by Country Name
- World Currencies listed by Country name and associated ISO 3166
two-letter country code showing currencies that circulate in those countries
and the ISO 4217 currency abbreviations for those currencies.
- Use this page to look up a country and find the currency/currencies that
circulate there and the currency abbreviations for those currencies.
- Listed by Currency Name
- World Currencies listed by currency name and associated ISO 4217
currency abbreviation showing countries where each currency is used and the
associated ISO 3166 two-letter country codes.
- Use this page to look up a currency name and find the corresponding currency
abbreviation and the countries in which it circulates.
- Listed by ISO 4217 Currency
Abbreviation (66 K)
- World Currencies listed by ISO 4217 currency abbreviation showing
countries where each currency is used and the associated ISO 3166 two-letter
- Use this page to look up a currency abbreviation and find the currency name
countries where that currency circulates.
- Unicode/ISO 10646 World Currency
Symbols (7 K)
- Unicode/ISO 10646 currency symbols for various currencies.
- Use this page to look up a particular currency symbol and find the
name of the currency it corresponds to.
- Warning: this page uses Unicode characters to display
some of the currency symbols. Older browsers may not display some of
the symbols. Very old browsers may crash if you attempt to look at this
The following resources may contain associated information which
you may find useful. Neither John Hall nor Paul L. Allen have checked
these in any detail and we cannot vouch for their usefulness or accuracy.
- Currency UK
- Provides current exchange rates between any two global currencies.
- Wikipedia Numismatics project.
- A list of global currencies and the three-character currency codes generally used to represent them. Also includes a list of superseded codes.
- ISO-4217 currency codes are provided for all currencies along with commonly used symbols. At the time of writing it had not been updated since May, 2008.
- A list of global currencies and the three-character currency codes generally used to represent them. In spite of the name of the webpage, the codes given do not correspond to the ISO 4217 standard in all instances.
- A list of symbols used to represent a range of currencies, shown as a graphic image and in the following fonts: Code2000, Tahoma and Arial Unicode MS.
- Information on which countries have adopted the Euro and when, and what rate was used in converting their previous currencies into the Euro.
- Font packs which may add some degree of Unicode support to Windows
and Mac computers.
- Lists available Unicode currency symbols (to view this you will need Acrobat Reader).
- Tests your browser for support for Unicode currency symbols.
- Lists active and obsolete ISO 4217 currency codes.
© Copyright 1998-2010, Paul L. Allen and John Hall
Comments to webmasteratjhall.co.uk
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Currency names |
Currency Abbreviations |
Currency Symbols |
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