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What is Singapore’s currency called?

Goh Jun Cheng

Singapore’s official currency is known as the Singapore dollar with the currency code S$ and symbol $. But how did the Singapore currency get its name and identity? This article provides an in-depth look at the characteristics and history behind the Singapore dollar.

Introduction to the Singapore Dollar

The Singapore dollar is the legal tender and only official currency of Singapore. It is issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) which is the central bank and financial regulator.

The Singapore currency is divided into 100 smaller units called cents. Notes are issued in denominations of S$2, S$5, S$10, S$20, S$50, S$100, S$500 and S$1000. Coins come in 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c and S$1.

The Singapore dollar is a well-known global currency and constitutes a fraction of global foreign exchange reserves. But how did it get its name and status?

Origins of the Name

The Singapore currency was not always known as the “Singapore dollar”. During British colonial rule until 1965, Singapore used the currency of the Straits Settlements called the Malayan dollar. It was pegged to the British pound.

When Singapore gained independence in 1965 after separation from Malaysia, the new city-state needed its own national currency. Several names were proposed by the currency board, including the “lion”, “shilling” and “royal”.

Eventually, the simplest choice – the “Singapore dollar” – was approved in June 1965. The name instantly denoted the currency’s association with Singapore and its use as official tender. The shorthand “S$” for Singapore dollar was also adopted.

The first series of notes and coins marked with the Singapore dollar name were announced on 12 June 1967. The Singapore dollar remains the currency’s official name till today.

Symbol and Code

The Singapore dollar symbol “$” and currency code “S$” were decided along with the name.

The dollar sign “$” is used locally to denote prices in Singapore dollars, while “S$” helps differentiate it from other dollar currencies internationally.

Before the symbol “$”, currencies used in Singapore historically had symbols like “C/” for the old Straits currency.

The “S$” code follows international standard ISO 4217 which assigns unique alphabetic codes like USD for US dollars or JPY for Japanese yen. Singapore was assigned the S$ code to represent its new currency.

Launch and Subsequent Evolution

Initially after launch in 1967, the Singapore dollar was pegged at par to the Malaysian ringgit. Both currencies could be used freely in Singapore and Malaysia.

But from 1973, the Singapore dollar became the sole legal tender in Singapore after currency split from Malaysia. Floating exchange rates were then adopted.

Over the years, the Singapore dollar evolved to become a globally stable currency backed by robust monetary policy and financial standing. This boosted international confidence, demand and circulation.

Currency Nicknames

The Singapore dollar is commonly referred to using various colloquial nicknames by locals. Some popular nicknames are:

  • “Singdollar”
  • “Singe” or “Sindi” for short
  • “Chicken feed” for loose change coins

These nicknames reflect endearment stemming from the currency’s everyday utility. Locals embrace these informal names when referring casually to the Singapore dollar.

Currency Subunits

The primary unit of the Singapore dollar is the dollar itself denoted as S$ in notes and coins.

But it also features fractional valued subunits known as cents. One Singapore dollar equals 100 cents. The terms “cents” and “sense” are used interchangeably in everyday parlance.

Cents come in handy for pricing goods and services requiring odd or non-rounded figures, supporting precise calculations.

Singapore’s Historic Currency Names

Tracing further back before the Singapore dollar, various currencies were used in olden Singapore including:

  • Straits dollar: Official currency of the Straits Settlements from 1898 to 1939, when Singapore was part of that British territory.
  • Malayan dollar: Currency of Malaya and British Borneo from 1939 to 1953, which Singapore was administered under as a crown colony.
  • Malaya and British Borneo dollar: Used from 1953 to 1967, when Singapore was part of Malaysia.
  • Malaysian ringgit: Temporary joint currency with Malaysia from 1967 before developing the Singapore dollar.

The Singapore dollar represents restoring full currency autonomy upon Singapore’s independence.

In summary, the Singapore dollar is Singapore’s undisputed official currency unit since 1967, with a widely recognized name and identity.

Its origins date to Singapore gaining monetary sovereignty after separation from Malaysia. The Singapore dollar’s stability and strength encapsulate Singapore’s prosperous journey as an independent nation.

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