The forex market, much like any other financial market, has its nicknames and slang terms for currencies and exchange rates, known as currency codes. Some of them even have colorful histories behind them.
Furthermore, a number of code, quotation and naming conventions have arisen over the years that are now in popular use among forex traders.
The ISO 4217 Standard
For standardization purposes, each world currency is designated by a particular three letter currency code assigned to it by the International Organization for Standardization or ISO. This set of currency codes is referred to as the ISO 4217 Standard.
In most cases, the ISO 4217 Standard code for a currency will consist of the country’s two character ISO 3166 country code (also sometimes called the Internet country code), in addition to an extra letter referring to the name of the currency unit.
For example, US is the ISO 3166 country code for the United States and D stands for Dollar, so the ISO 4217 code for the U.S. Dollar is USD. Similarly, JP is the ISO 3166 country code for Japan and Y represents the unit of currency, the Yen, so the ISO 4217 code for the Japanese Yen is JPY.
Currency Codes and Symbols for Major and Minor Currencies
In addition to three-letter currency codes assigned by the ISO, many countries also have a special character or other brief symbol for their money. What follow in the table below are the ISO 4217 codes for major and minor currencies, as well as their commonly used symbols, when applicable.
- European Union Euro EUR €
- United States Dollar USD $
- United Kingdom Pound Sterling GBP £
- Japan Yen JPY ¥
- Switzerland Swiss Franc CHF Sfr.
- Australia Australian Dollar AUD A$
- Canada Canadian Dollar CAD C$
- New Zealand New Zealand Dollar NZD NZ$
The reason that the Swiss Franc’s CHF symbol is not as obvious as the other currencies is due to the fact that the first letters of the old Roman name of the country – Confederation Helvetia – is used for Switzerland’s country code.
Currency Pair Quotation Conventions
The base currency in a particular currency pair are often determined by their importance in relation to other currencies.
For example, the Euro is generally considered the most dominant base currency, followed by the Pound Sterling, the Australian Dollar and the New Zealand Dollar. All of these serve as the base currency in their currency pairs involving the U.S. Dollar, and they would be written in currency codes like this: EUR/USD.
The U.S. Dollar then dominates as the base currency in virtually all other currency pairs, including against the Japanese Yen, the Canadian Dollar, and the Swiss Franc, as well as in currency pairs against the exotic currencies. These currency pairs would generally be written like this: USD/JPY.
Common Currency Nicknames
In addition to the standard ISO three letter currency codes, many currencies also have popular nicknames which are frequently used in the currency dealing rooms, in market commentary reports and in telephone conversations among forex dealers and their customers.
Some of the most common currency codes/nicknames for the key major and minor currencies, along with some brief explanations of the name follow.
- USD – The U.S. Dollar: The nicknames go considerably beyond using just “the Dollar” since that can be confused with the currencies of other countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand who also refer to their currencies as dollars.The Dollaror Buck among professional traders. The term Greenback has achieved particular popularity among forex market commentators when referring to the U.S. currency. This term has a long history, reaching all the way back to the Civil War era in America in the late 1800’s when then-President Abraham Lincoln printed U.S. Demand Notes to finance the war. These notes were printed in black ink on the front and green ink on the back, unlike most other currency notes of that era which had blank backs, thereby giving rise to the name. Greenback is almost never used in the dealing rooms.
- EUR – The European Union’s Euro: Euro, Fiber or Fibre. Fiber has only recently started to be used in the retail forex market and would not generally be heard in professional dealing rooms. According to some sources, the nickname arose because Euro bills are made of cotton fiber. Others maintain the nickname came about because the Euro’s rates are now transmitted via fiber optic cables, somewhat analogous to Cable for GBP/USD.
- JPY – The Japanese Yen: The Yen. Not really many interesting nicknames for this one!
- GBP – Britain’s Pound Sterling: Pound, Sterling, Quid, Cable. The last nickname came about because the exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the U.K. Pound Sterling was originally transmitted via the Trans-Atlantic telegraph cable which was laid in the late 1800’s between London and New York.
- CHF – Switzerland’s Swiss Franc: Swissie, the Chief. The Swissie nickname is definitely the most commonly used among professional dealers, but does not seem as common in the retail forex market which seems to prefer the Chief.
- CAD – Canada’s Canadian Dollar: Professional interbank traders will often ask for a price in “Funds” or “the Funds” when they wish to refer to USD/CAD. This name arises due to the fact that the currency pair generally trades for value one business day in the future or for funds, not for value spot or two business days like most other currency pairs. “Loonie” or “the Loonie” came from Canada’s national bird the loon, which appears on the one dollar Canadian coin.
- AUD – Australia’s Australian Dollar: The Aussie. Named after a native of Australia. That same nickname is also shared by the AUD/USD currency pair, as well as the Australian Dollar.
- NZD – New Zealand’s New Zealand Dollar: The Kiwi. Nicknamed for a flightless bird found only in New Zealand that is a national symbol of the country and so appears on the one New Zealand Dollar coin. Also, natives of New Zealand are also often called Kiwis.
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