Currency Names and Why We Call Them What We Do

Loonie, buck, monkey, fiber...

Every currency has a least one nickname and an interesting story behind it. How many of these do you know?

Currency Names and Why We Call Them As We Do

Canadian Dollar

Beaver or Buck: Similar to its use for the US dollar.

Loonie: Named after the 1 Forex trading canada coin, which has a picture of a common loon on it. The Loon is, afterall, one of Canada's most beloved waterfowl! Fun fact, when the 2 dollar Canadian coin was introduced in 1996, the word "twoonie" was quickly adopted (twoonie, as in two loonies... get it?)

Piastre (pronounced piasse): from the 18th century French word for "dollar".

The Euro

As one of the world's more recent currencies, not too many alternative names exist among traders to describe the Euro. The most common is Fiber, which refers to the coton fibers of which euro notes are made.

Great British Pound

Brass: from the northern English phrase, "where there's muck, there's brass", used by working class people who scavenged scrap metal for a living. With time, the term "brass" eventually came to be known as money.

Bread, Dough: This term is not only used in the UK, but in most English speaking counties. The term most likely comes from the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread", where bread eventually came to be used figuratively to refer to money. Think of the other expression "breadwinner". Dough is a logical variation of the term.

Quid: this beloved term for the pound has confused origins, and only theories exist:

  1. From the Latin quid pro quo, which means "something for something else", and may have shown up in the late 1600's England.
  2. From the the expression "quid of tabacco" which became wildly popular in 1600s England.
  3. From the Gealic chuid, which means a portion, or share. The word may have entered English vocabulary via Irish soldiers serving in the British military. The Irishmen referred to their pay as chuid, which was Anglicized to "quid".

Sterling: the traditional name for the the Great British Pound is Pound Sterling, which historically refers to 1 troy pound of sterling silver.

Indian Rupee

Monkey: the 500 rupee note used to have a picture of a monkey on it. British Soldiers therefore called 500 rupees a "monkey". The term was later used by London traders to refer to the Indian Rupee.

New Zealand Dollar

Kiwi: called after New Zealand's national bird, the kiwi (and not after the fruit, which is originally from northern China, but was rebranded as a "kiwi" after World War II in order to bolster interest for this product in the United States).

Swedish Krona

Stokkie: shorthand for the Swedish capital Stockholm.

United States Dollar

Benjis: called after Benjamin Franklin (not a president), who's face is on the $100 note.

Bones: although the origin of the term is unknown, it could be related to dibstones, a variation of the children's game Jakes, using the knuckle-bones of a sheep. It's also the origin of the expression "I've got dibs!"

Buck: this quite literally refers to a buck-skin which Native Americans used as a basis of exchange when trading with European settlers in North America.

Cheddar, Cheese: Comes from Government Cheese, which is generic cheese stockpiled by the US government and given to people as part of their welfare payments or during an emergency (such as a natural disaster). Because a block of government cheese is generally provided at the same time with a sum of money, the terms "cheese" and "cheddar" also came to refer to this welfare check.

Clams: a clam is one dollar. Although the exact origin of the term is unknown, it may refer to the use of clam-shells by Native Americans as a form of currency, especially along the Pacific coast, prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Dead Presidents: this obviously refers to the pictures of deceased US presidents on the different notes: $1 - George Washington, $2 - Thomas Jefferson; $5 Abraham Lincoln; $20 - Andrew Jackson; $50 - Ulysses S. Grant; $500 - William McKinley; $1000 - Grover Cleveland; $5000 - James Madison; $100,000 - Woodrow Wilson (no longer in circulation). If you come across any bill larger than $100, then you are either lucky, or a bank robber, as they are not used as public tener. Also, three notes, don't have a Dead President: $10 - Alexander Hamilton; $100 - Benjamin Franklin and $10,000 - Salmon P. Chase.

Greenback: refers to the paper currency used the the Union during the American Civil War. The notes used only green on the backside, hence the name greenback.

Scrilla: is a slang term popularized by the hip-hop scene from the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1990s.

Currency Pairs

Traders will often use a particular name when referring to a specific currency pair. So doing refers to the pair being traded, and not to the individual currencies within that pair. Here are some of the main ones.

EUR/GBP

Chunnel: comes from the name given to the Channel Tunnel, or "Chunnel" which connects Great Britain with Continental Europe. FYI, if you are ever looking for a Burger King in Paris, the fastest way to find one is by taken the train through the Chunnel!

EUR/JPY

Euppy: derived from the "E" in Euro and the "PY" in JPY. So EPU therefore becomes Euppy (sometimes referred to as "yuppee").

EUR/RUB

Bettie: Bettie refers to Barney Rubble's wife from the popular cartoon series The Flinstones. Since the Russian Ruble and Barney Rubble share the same name (more or less), the nickname just sort of makes sense.

GBP/JPY

Guppy or Geppy: much like the "Euppy" the "Guppy" is derived from the "G" in Great British Pound and the "PY" in JPY. So GPY therefore becomes GepPY or GupPY.

USD/JPY

Bill and Ben: Bill stands for the dollar "bill" while Yen rhymes with "Ben", so "Bill and Ben" is the US dollar-Yen currency pair.