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Etymology of the term dollar
JUNE 12, 2008
Etymologically speaking, the term dollar came from Tolar, which was derived from Thaler, which in turn came from the name of a rich silver mine, Joachimsthal (The Valley of St. Joachim) in Bohemia (then part of the Czech Kingdom, a member of the Holy Roman Empire, now part of the Czech Republic).
In the early 16th century, the silver from Joachimsthal was used to mint the Bohemian coin Guldengroschen ("great guilder", being of silver but equal in value to a gold guilder). Not long after issuance, these coins gained the name Joachimsthalers. From there, coins gained the name "thaler" regardless of the issuing authority.
The name "thaler" is historically related to the tolar in Slovenia (Slovenian tolar) and Bohemia, the daalder (1.5 Dutch guilders) in the Netherlands, the daler in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway and the Maria Theresa thaler.
The daalder, also known as the Dutch lion dollar, was popular in the Dutch East Indies as well as in the Dutch New Netherlands Colony (New York), and it circulated throughout the English colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries. By the mid-1700s, it was replaced by the Spanish 8 reales, a coin that was called "Spanish dollar". During the 18th century, the "Spanish dollar" was widely circulated in the Spanish colonies in the New World.
Another coin that probably contributed to the choice of a dollar as the main unit of currency for the United States was the Maria Theresa thaler, a silver bullion-coin that has been used in world trade continuously since it was first minted as a thaler in 1741. It was named after Empress Maria Theresa, who ruled Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia from 1740 to 1780.
Since 1780, the coin has always been dated 1780 and has been struck by the mints in Birmingham, Bombay, Brussels, London, Paris, Rome and Utrecht, in addition to the Habsburg mints in Günzburg, Hall, Karlsburg, Kremnica, Milan, Prague and Vienna. Between 1751 and 2000, some 389 million were minted.
The use of the Spanish dollar and the Maria Theresa thaler as legal tender for the early United States and its fractions were the mainstay of commerce. They are thought to be the reasons for the name of the current U.S. currency.
However, the word dollar was in use in the English language as slang or mis-pronunciation for the thaler for about 200 years before the American Revolution, with many quotes in the plays of Shakespeare referring to dollars as money.
Coins known as dollars were also in use in Scotland during the 17th century, and there is a claim that the use of the English word, and perhaps even the use of the coin, began at the University of St Andrews.
The symbol $, usually written before the numerical amount, is used for the U.S. dollar (as well as for many other currencies). The sign's ultimate origins are not certain, though it is widely accepted that it comes from the Spanish Coat of arms, which carries the two Pillars of Hercules and the motto Ne Plus Ultra in the shape of an "S". The Spanish were the first to use the dollar sign for their currency, which was later adopted in the US, and which was later replaced by the US dollar.