Why is the US currency called dollar? what is its origin and meaning?

The word "dollar" is known worldwise for being the U.S. unit of currency, however, what people don't know is that the word is much older than the American money.

Why is the U.S. currency called dollar? what is its origin and meaning?

The history of the dollar currency is one that involves many countries. Most of us think of the American unit currency when talking about dollars but the word is, in fact, much older than that.

A journey through time

The word "dollar" is the English form of "thaler", a German word which means "person or thing from the valley". The "thaler" was the name given to the first minted coins from silver mines back in 1519 in Joachimsthal, Bohemia, therefore, America's currency unit is named after them. 

From "thaler" to "dollar"

During the fifteenth century, the Bohemian city of Joachimintal, which was part of Charles V Roman Empire at the time, was famous for its silver mines. In 1519 the first minted coins from this metal became the main form of currency used in commerce across Europe. The coins were originally called "Joachimsthaler", but was later shortened to "thaler".

Moreover, the Anglicized version of the coin was also applied to similar coins, including the Spanish peso, the Portuguese eight-real piece and other central Europe coins, with similar weight and fineness.

The United States Dollar

Those coins, most typically the Spanish peso or dollar were most commonly seen in the British colonies in North America, due to a lack of official British coins. The colonists used whatever foreign coins they found to finance their spendings. They even printed paper money in different colonies causing the American government to engage in disputes with the British, contributing as one of the causes for the American Revolution.

The rebels financed the war with the paper money, so-called "continentals", which included both "dollars" and "pounds" currencies. The notes lost all their value after the war, but they did serve their purpose until America won the war.

Therefore, when America gained its independence in 1792 they decided to go for "dollar" subdivided into 100 cents as its currency name, instead of "pounds".

Once they decided the currency coins they were going for, all the foreign money was supposed to lose their status in three years time. However, due to the gold and silver shortage in the country, in 1797 they decided to extend the tender status to Spanish dollars for an undefinite period of time. 

California's Gold Rush

The gold discoveries in California in 1848 led to the removal of the Spanish dollar tender status nine years after, as the U.S. experienced a massive increase in their gold and silver reserves, which allowed the country to pull out the production of sufficient gold coins by the mint.