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What is correct, United States dollar or United States Dollar?

In the examples below the emphasis is mine.

Example 1 (context)

The United States dollar (sign: $; code: USD; also abbreviated US$) is the official currency of the United States of America.

Example 2 (context)

As a result, the United States Dollar was defined as a unit of weight equaling 371 4/16th grains (24.057 grams) of pure silver.

Example 3, in definition of the word cable (context)

 9. (finance) The currency pair British Pound against United States Dollar


Is there a general rule about currencies? What is the explanation in grammar terms?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

According to this Wiki talk page, the ISO standard for currencies (ISO 4217) uses the capitalised versions, but major style guides recommend lowercase. Unfortunately the relevant original sources are not freely available online — although the CMoS (relevant chapter) gives free 30-day trial subscriptions.

General usage strongly favours the lowercase version, as the style guides would suggest, and as a Google Ngrams search confirms; it also shows that US dollar, US Dollar are far more common than United States dollar, United States Dollar:

chart from Google Ngrams

(Searches with other currencies — UK pound/Pound, Canadian dollar/Dollar, etc. — show similar preference for lowercase.)

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+1 : beat me to it - even with the ISO 4217! –  hippietrail May 21 '11 at 11:27

Not only is there not much standardisation in this area, there are usages that seem at first blush to be incorrect on some level, but are widely used and understood.

For example "British Pound" is not the "correct" term for the currency, which is called "Pound Sterling" or "Sterling". "British Pound" also does not generate the initialisation "GBP". Despite lacking these merits, everyone understands what the phrase means.

My point here is that as long as your terminology is comprehensible and fairly common, you're probably fine, unless you're drafting a legal document. In that case it is usual to include a definition for any currencies mentioned.

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