Pound sign

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Pound sign
In  Unicode U+00A3£POUND SIGN (£)
Currency Pound
Graphical variants
Different from
Different fromU+20A4LIRA SIGN
Symbol category class.svg Category
The PS grapheme in a selection of fonts Pound sign fonts.svg
The £ grapheme in a selection of fonts

The pound sign (£) is the symbol for the pound unit of sterling – the currency of the United Kingdom and its associated Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories and previously of Great Britain and of the Kingdom of England. The same symbol is used for other currencies called pound, such as the Egyptian and Syrian pounds. The sign may be drawn with one or two bars depending on personal preference, but the Bank of England has used the one-bar style exclusively on banknotes since 1975.


In the United States, "pound sign" refers to the symbol # (number sign). In Canada ”pound sign” can mean £ or #.


The symbol derives from the upper case Latin letter L, representing libra pondo, the basic unit of weight in the Roman Empire, which in turn is derived from the Latin word libra, meaning scales or a balance. The pound became an English unit of weight and in England became defined as the tower pound (equivalent to 350 grams) of sterling silver. [1] [2] According to the Royal Mint Museum:

It is not known for certain when the horizontal line or lines, which indicate an abbreviation, first came to be drawn through the L. However, there is in the Bank of England Museum a cheque dated 7 January 1661 with a clearly discernible £ sign. By the time the Bank was founded in 1694 the £ sign was in common use. [3]

However, the simple letter L, in lower- or uppercase, was used to represent the pound in printed books and newspapers until well into the 19th century. [4] In the blackletter type used until the seventeenth century, [5] the letter L is rendered as .


When used for sterling, the pound sign is placed before the numerals (e.g., £12,000) and separated from the following digits by no space or only a thin space. In the UK, the sign is used without any prefix. In Egypt and Lebanon, a disambiguating letter is added ( [6] or £E [7] and £L [8] respectively). In international banking and foreign exchange operations, the symbol is rarely used: the ISO 4217 currency code (e.g., GBP, EGP, etc.) is preferred. [lower-alpha 1]

Other English variants

In Canadian English, the symbol £ is called the pound sign. The symbol # has several uses and is sometimes called the pound sign too, though it is most often known as the number sign. [9] (Telephone instructions for equipment manufactured in the United States often call # the pound key.)

In American English, the term "pound sign" usually refers to the symbol # (number sign), and the corresponding telephone key is called the "pound key". [10] (As in Canada, the # symbol has many other uses.)

Historic variants

Double bar style

Banknotes issued by the Bank of England since 1975 have used only the single bar style as a pound sign. [11] [12] [13] The bank used both the two-bar style () and the one-bar style (£) (and sometimes a figure without any symbol whatever) more or less equally from 1725 to 1971 intermittently and sometimes concurrently. [11] In typography, the symbols are allographs   style choices  when used to represent the pound; consequently fonts use U+00A3£POUND SIGN (Unicode) code point irrespective of which style chosen, (not U+20A4 LIRA SIGN despite its similarity). It is a font design choice on how to draw the symbol at U+00A3. [13] Although most computer fonts do so with one bar, the two-bar style is not rare, as may be seen in the illustration above.


Note the leading J of Jacquard CaslonSp.svg
Note the leading J of Jacquard

In the eighteenth-century Caslon metal fonts, the pound sign was identical to an italic uppercase J, rotated 180 degrees. [14]

Currencies that use the pound sign

Former currencies

Use with computers

In the Unicode standard, the pound sign is encoded at U+00A3£POUND SIGN (£) [15] Whether the glyph is drawn with one or two bars is a type designer's choice as explained above; the key point is that the code is constant irrespective of the presentation chosen. [lower-alpha 2]

The encoding of the £ symbol in position xA3 (16310) was first standardised by ISO Latin-1 (an "extended ASCII") in 1985. Position xA3 was used by the Digital Equipment Corporation VT220 terminal, Mac OS Roman, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, and Acorn Archimedes.

Many early computers (limited to a 7-bit, 128-position character set) used a variant of ASCII with one of the less-frequently used characters replaced by the £. The UK national variant of ISO 646 was standardised as BS 4730 in 1985. This code was identical to ASCII except for two characters: x23 encoded £ instead of #, while x7E encoded (overline) instead of ~ (tilde). MS-DOS on the IBM PC originally used a proprietary 8-bit character set Code page 437 in which the £ symbol was encoded as x9C; adoption of the ISO/IEC 8859-1 ("ISO Latin-1") standard code xA3 only came later with Microsoft Windows. The Atari ST also used position x9C. The HP LaserJet used position xBA (ISO/IEC 8859-1: º) for the £ symbol, while most other printers used x9C. The BBC Ceefax system which dated from 1976 encoded the £ as x23. The Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81 characters sets used x0C (ASCII: form feed). The ZX Spectrum and the BBC Micro used x60 (ASCII: `, grave). The Commodore 64 used x5C (ASCII: \) while the Oric computers used x5F (ASCII: _). IBM's EBCDIC code page 037 uses xB1 for the £ while its code page 285 uses x5B. ICL's 1900-series mainframes used a six-bit (64-position character set) encoding for characters, loosely based on BS 4730, with the £ symbol represented as octal 23 (hex 13, dec 19).

Entry methods


Typewriters produced for the British market included a "£" sign from the earliest days, though its position varied widely. A 1921 advertisement for an Imperial Typewriters model D, for example [18] shows a machine with two modifier shifts (CAPS and FIG), with the "£" sign occupying the FIG shift position on the key for letter "B". But the advertisement notes that "We make special keyboards containing symbols, fractions, signs, etc., for the peculiar needs of Engineers, Builders, Architects, Chemists, Scientists, etc., or any staple trade."

On Latin-alphabet typewriters lacking a "£" symbol type element, a reasonable approximation could be made by overtyping an "f" over an "L". Historically, "L" overtyped with a hyphen or an equals sign was also used. [19]

Compose key

The compose key sequence is: [20]

Windows, Linux, Unix

On Microsoft Windows, Linux and Unix, the UK keyboard layout has the "£" symbol on the 3 number key and is typed using:

On a US-International keyboard in Windows, [21] the "£" can be entered using:

On a US-International keyboard in Linux and Unix, the "£" can be entered using:

In Windows, it may also be generated through the Alt keycodes, although the results vary depending on factors such as the locale, codepage and OS version:

Windows also supports the combination ⇧ Shift+Ctrl+Alt+4 but this combination may be overridden by applications for other purposes.

The Character Map utility and Microsoft Word's "Insert Symbol" commands may also be used to enter this character. [lower-alpha 3]

Mac OS

The symbol "£" is in the MacRoman character set and can be generated on most non-UK Mac OS keyboard layouts which do not have a dedicated key for it, typically through:

On UK Apple Mac keyboards, this is reversed, with the "£" symbol on the number 3 key, typed using:


Pressing and holding the local currency sign will invoke a pop-up box presenting an array of currency signs, from which the pound sign may be chosen. [22]

Other uses

The logo of the UK Independence Party, a British political party, is based on the pound sign, [23] symbolising the party's opposition to adoption of the euro and to the European Union generally.

A symbol that appears to be a double-barred pound sign is used as the logo of the record label Parlophone. In fact this is a stylised version of a Fraktur L (), standing for Lindström (the firm's founder Carl Lindström).

The pound sign was used as an uppercase letter (the lowercase being ſ, long s) to signify the sound [ ʒ ] in the early 1993–1995 version of the Turkmen Latin alphabet. [24]

See also


  1. Prior to ISO 4217, abbreviations such as "stg" or "STG" were traditionally used to disambiguate sterling from other currencies that used the symbol.
  2. There is a separate code point, U+20A4LIRA SIGN [16] Unicode notes that the "lira sign" is not widely used and was added due to both it and the pound sign being available on HP printers. [17]
  3. These facilities also offer the similar symbol , the Italian lira sign. This symbol will be not be interpreted as a pound sign in Excel etc. If the two-bar form is really needed, the solution is to select the standard £ sign and apply an appropriate font.

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  1. Thomas Snelling (1762). A View of the Silver Coin and Coinage of England from the Norman Conquest to the Present Time. T. Snelling. p. ii. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  2. "A brief history of the pound". The Dozenal Society of Great Britain. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
  3. "The Origins of £sd". The Royal Mint Museum. Archived from the original on 8 March 2020.
  4. For example, Samuel Pepys (2 January 1660). "Diary of Samuel Pepys/1660/January" . Retrieved 23 September 2019.Then I went to Mr. Crew's and borrowed L10 of Mr. Andrewes for my own use, and so went to my office, where there was nothing to do.
  5. Dowding, Geoffrey (1962). An introduction to the history of printing types; an illustrated summary of main stages in the development of type design from 1440 up to the present day: an aid to type face identification. Clerkenwell [London]: Wace. p. 5.
  6. Hayes, Adam (22 April 2022). "Egyptian Pound (EGP) Definition". Investopedia.
  7. "Alexandria City Center to undergo LE 370 million expansion". Daily News Egypt. 10 June 2008.
  8. "Lebanon". CIA World Factbook 1990 - page 178. Central Intelligence Agency. 1 April 1990. Retrieved 2022-06-21 via en.wikisource.org.
  9. Barber, Katherine, ed. (2004). The Canadian Oxford dictionary (2nd ed.). Toronto: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-541816-6.
  10. William Safire (1991-03-24). "On Language; Hit the Pound Sign". New York Times . Retrieved 2011-05-21.
  11. 1 2 "Withdrawn banknotes". Bank of England . Retrieved 13 September 2019. ("£1 1st Series Treasury Issue" to "£5 Series B")
  12. "Current banknotes". Bank of England . Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  13. 1 2 "History of the use of the single crossbar pound sign on Bank of England's banknotes". Bank of England. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  14. Howes, Justin (2000). "Caslon's punches and matrices". Matrix. 20: 1–7.
  15. The Unicode Consortium (11 June 2015). "The Unicode Standard, Version 10.0 | Character Code Charts" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  16. The Unicode Consortium (26 August 2015). "The Unicode Standard, Version 10.0 | Character Code Charts" (PDF). Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  17. Allen, Julie D., ed. (August 2015) [1991]. The Unicode Standard - Version 8.0 - Core Specification - Chapter 22.1. Currency Symbols (PDF). Mountain View, CA, USA: Unicode, Inc. pp. 751–752. ISBN   978-1-936213-10-8. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-12-06. Retrieved 2016-12-06. [...] Currency Symbols: U+20A0–U+20CF [...] Lira Sign. A separate currency sign U+20A4 LIRA SIGN is encoded for compatibility with the HP Roman-8 character set, which is still widely implemented in printers. In general, U+00A3 POUND SIGN may be used for both the various currencies known as pound (or punt) and the currencies known as lira. [...]
  18. "Imperial Typewriter Co". www.gracesguide.co.uk.
  19. see for example Barnum and Bailey share certificate (early 20th century)
  20. "Compose Key cheat sheet". GitHub . Retrieved 12 November 2019. (Caution: the 'additional' method suggested, Compose/l/=, should produce a lira sign U+20A4 rather than a pound sign).
  21. "Using the US International Keyboard Layout" (PDF). College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University . Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  22. J. D. Biersdorfer (7 January 2016). "TECH TIP: How to Add Currency Symbols to Text in Android". New York Times . Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  23. "UK Independence Party". Archived from the original on 24 August 2000. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  24. Clement, Victoria (2008). "Emblems of independence: script choice in post-Soviet Turkmenistan in the 1990s". International Journal of the Sociology of Language (192): 171–185.