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Dollar sign with two vertical bars

The dollar sign $ (also known as the peso sign ) is a currency symbol . It is shown as a capital S with one or two vertical bars and is used to denote a variety of currencies , see List of Dollar Currencies .


The symbol, originally a weight symbol for gold, was initially used for the Spanish - Mexican peso ( piasters ). From Mexico it was adopted by the United States with the word " dollar " with the introduction of the US currency in the 1780s and 1790s . The original function as a gold standard was pushed back.

The symbol is used today as a universal currency symbol for all currencies called dollars or pesos, often together with a letter abbreviation so that uniqueness is guaranteed (for example US $ ). In addition, it is or was used for the Bolivian peso boliviano , the Malay ringgit , the Nicaraguan cordoba , the Portuguese escudo (with two dashes, see Cifrão ), the Samoan tala , as well as for the Tongan pa'anga .

In Cuba , the dollar sign is used for both the convertible peso and the Cuban peso , with the convertible peso usually showing two vertical bars and the national peso one vertical bar through the S.

Theories of origin

The symbol first appeared in manuscripts in business transactions between Mexico and the British colonies of North America to mark the Spanish currency by the 1770s at the latest . The origin cannot be clearly proven, but it is likely that it developed over the course of time from the handwritten abbreviation Ps for peso (s) or piastres (originally measures of weight).

The pillars of Heracles on the coat of arms of Spain

The sign is often seen as a stylized symbol for the pillars of Heracles , which symbolize the (Spanish) claim to overseas rule. Originally, the pillars of Heracles were a symbol for the end of the habitable world, which corresponded to the saying nec plus ultra . Since new countries were discovered in the west starting with Christopher Columbus ' voyages of discovery, Emperor Charles V chose the pillars of Heracles with the motto " Plus Ultra " as a personal symbol, which was also minted on his coins and thus established itself as a weight symbol for gold. The two lines should be read as columns and the “S” as a stylized banner. However, the spelling with a line in the symbol for “Peso” was also common from the start.

Another theory explains the origin of the character from the old Portuguese cifrão , a number separator that was also written as S with two vertical bars. It is less likely that the sign arose from a ligature , as is the case, for example, with the pound symbol £ (a combination of the letters l and b). The assumption that the sign originated in the young United States and that its origin was a dashed abbreviation s for the British currency shilling or the British spelling “8 /” for eight shillings (in some US States the value of one peso) is probably wrong.

Another theory favors the development from the abbreviation “P8” for the peso, which had a value of eight reals. A common “ Spanish dollar ” at that time was an 8 reales coin, called a “piece of eight” in literature, often under the English name “pieces of eight.” The thesis that $ comes from the Roman abbreviation IIS or HS for the Roman coin sesterce , is considered refuted, although the early United States gladly borrowed from ancient Rome ( Capitol , Senate ).

Another theory says that the dollar sign comes from a stamp on the silver coins from the colonial city of Potosí in today's Bolivia. For this purpose, the letters P, T and S in the name of the city were simply superimposed on one another and so the label for 'made in Potosi' was created, so to speak. The mountain Cerro Rico on the outskirts of the city supplied the ores such as silver and copper, which were coveted for this purpose and were mined under inhumane conditions. Mainly because of the high quality and purity of the silver, these coins were highly valued worldwide and stood for a valuable currency.

Other uses

For the character $, the American Standards Association provided the character space 36 ( hexadecimal : 24) in the standard X3.4-1963 (known as ASCII ) in 1963 . ASCII and other 7-bit code standards such as ECMA-6 still provided for the alternative use of other currency symbols in the same place. In 8-bit codes such as ISO 8859 , the assignment of $ to the character space 36 was fixed and can also be found in the same place in the Unicode standard.

Due to the early standardization of the character in character sets and the resulting presence on keyboards for terminals and computers , the character was also used as a syntactic element in programming and data processing languages .


  • In the BASIC programming language as a suffix to identify character string variables and functions (for example S$, CHR$()etc.). Since it thus identified a text variable, the dollar sign is still often called a "string" sign today.
  • In the Pascal programming language and some assembly languages as a prefix for hexadecimal constants (for example $0A000)
  • In many Unix shells as a prefix to identify variables and special variables (eg $PATH, $1, $!), further it shows at the end of the command prompt a shell normal user rights (as opposed to root-right with the # ).
  • In the programming languages PHP , Perl , Tcl etc. as a prefix to identify variables. (for example $anzahl, $sql)
  • In the Ruby programming language as a prefix to identify global variables.
  • In regular expressions as an anchor for the end of the string or the end of the line.
  • In the LaTeX typesetting system to switch to the simple math mode.
  • In spreadsheet programs ( e.g. OpenOffice.org Calc , Microsoft Excel ) for absolute referencing of a specific cell.
  • In CP / M , the $ symbol is used as a termination for strings in the screen output. DOS has taken over this function. (For example, "Hello World $" becomes Hello World in the output.)

In miscellaneous symbols and pictographs 1F4B2 a highlighted dollar sign (?) was introduced under Code U +.

Web links

Commons : Dollar Signs  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: $  - Explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. The Mexican currency was called "Spanish Dollar" in American-English usage, so "Spanish Taler"