For most units, they symbol/abbreviation is placed after the number: 200 m, 75° F, 60 mph, 100 watts, etc.

When stating values of money, such as $500, the dollar sign is placed before the number. This is also true of other currency signs like the euro, yuan, pound, etc.

What is the origin of this practice for currency signs?

Edit: As Anixx pointed out, the official ruble abbreviation (RUB) comes after the value. I think this is the same for all official currency abbreviations: USD, CAD, etc. But this just makes it all the more curious: why would the symbol come before the value, but the abbreviation come after the value?

BTW, I consider this an etymology question more than anything, but because it applies not just to English, I wonder if it had some old origin that transcends any one language (possibly in some ancient Greek or Roman practice). This is why I asked it on History.SE.

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    – MCW
    Oct 19, 2016 at 23:48
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    I suspect that there is no reason, simply convention. Different people do things differently.
    – MCW
    Oct 20, 2016 at 12:17
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    Abbreviation for US cent is placed after. As in "5¢". Always thought it was strange that dollar was before and cent after.
    – AllInOne
    Oct 20, 2016 at 17:25
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    @MarkC.Wallace - Debatable. The top answer there is not accepted, and would probably not be considered up to our standards, as it contains no references and begins "I think that .." Also, "the origin" could be different than the "why".
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 20, 2016 at 18:20
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    FWIW, the theory there seems to be that if you are keeping books it acts as a "beginning of the amount" marker, so that nobody can fudge the books by putting an extra digit on the front. The back is protected by the decimal point. Its an attractive theory (to me as someone who wrote his Master's thesis on compiler construction anyway), but without backup its just speculation.
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 20, 2016 at 18:29

1 Answer 1


Your assumption is wrong: The position of currency symbols is not "cross-language" but rather dependent largely on language (but also on time and place, i.e. on locale) — contrast English and German, two languages commonly used in the Eurozone (cf. official languages of Ireland/Malta and Germany/Austria/Luxembourg/Liechtenstein/Belgium, respectively) and which therefore deal with Euro all the time:

  • English (e.g. en_IE): €2,500.00 or 2,500.00 EUR
  • Standard High German (e.g. de_DE): 2.500,00 € or 2.500,00 EUR

These examples are not exhaustive, but nevertheless note how these two languages differ despite not only being geographically, politically and economically close but also closely related genetically.

Note similar patterns to each language for an "exotic" currency for both languages, e.g. Japanese yen:

  • English (e.g. en_IE): ¥2,500.00 or 2,500.00 JPY
  • Standard High German (e.g. de_DE): 2.500,00 ¥ or 2.500,00 JPY
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    Since you mention English, just to confuse things note that older (before decimal) British money could use currency symbols before, in between, and after the amount. E.g. £1.2s.3d = one pound, two shillings, and threepence.
    – jamesqf
    Dec 27, 2016 at 5:14
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    Yes, but comparing cross-currency doesn't let you see that this is primarily not dependent on currency: comparing two languages with one common currency (Euro and yen) shows that the difference is actually predicted by the language used. Dec 27, 2016 at 9:31
  • In Japan, assuming you're using Arabic numerals, you can usually either write it as ¥2,500.00 or 2,500.00円. The roles of the comma and decimal are the same as in English, and you can use the international yen sign (¥) exactly the same way; but if you use the more Japanese-style yen sign/character (円), it goes on the other side. Feb 2, 2021 at 20:49

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