Currency Wiki

A cifrão on a Portuguese coin

The cifrão (Portuguese pronunciation: Loudspeaker [siˈfɾɐ̃w̃] (helpinfo)) is a currency sign similar in appearance to the dollar sign ($), but always written with two vertical lines (Cifrão symbol) instead of one. It is currently used as the official sign of the Cape Verdean escudo and as a common sign for the Brazilian real, which is usually identified by "R$".

The symbol was officially used for expressing amounts in Portuguese escudos prior to the currency's replacement by the euro and Portuguese Timorese escudos before its replacement by the Indonesian rupiah and United States dollar. In Portugal and Cape Verde, the cifrão is often used as a decimal point between escudo and centavo values. For example, on the former Portuguese and current Cape Verdean 2.50 escudo coins, the value is written out as "2Cifrão symbol50", signifying 2 escudos and 50 centavos. It was also previously used in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico to represent U.S. dollars to differentiate between their local currencies, which are also identified by dollar signs.


The word cifrão is derived from the Portuguese word cifrar (meaning "cipher"), which itself is believed to have originated from the Arabic صفر (cifr).

According to the Brazilian Mint (Portuguese: Casa de Moeda do Brasil), the cifrão is of Islamic origin. Attributed for the sign's creation is Tariq ibn Ziyad (670–720), a general who led the Islamic conquest of the Visigoths in Hispania from 711 to 718, under the orders of Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I (668–715). There are two paths that the Arab general may have traveled to get to Europe, depending on where his journey began, but it is widely accepted that from Morocco, he crossed the Strait of Gibraltar (known as the Strait of the Pillars of Hercules) to reach the Iberian Peninsula. Following his conquest, Tariq would warrant the production of commemorative coins consisting of a sinuous line (similar to an "S") representing the long and tortuous path taken to reach the European continent. Cutting the line vertically are two lines representing the Pillars of Hercules, signifying strength, power, and endurance. Such a symbol eventually gained recognition and gradually came to become a graphic representation of money.

Character support[]

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There is not much character support for the cifrão, as the Unicode standard currently considers the distinction between one- and two-bar dollar signs stylistic between fonts and does not assign a separate value for the cifrão. Some fonts supplied on the Mac OS X contain distinct cifrão signs, including regular-weight Baskerville, Big Caslon, Bodoni MT, Brush Script MT, Garamond, ST FangSong, ST Kaiti, and ST Song. In LaTeX, with the textcomp package installed, the cifrão () can be input using \textdollaroldstyle.

Due to the current difficulty supporting the character, the dollar sign is often used in place of the cifrão, even for official purposes.


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