How the word “buck” came to mean dollar?

Now we have all heard it right? You go to a store and you buy a pepsi or something and at the counter the Cashier says “its 2 buck” or in daily life when you ask a friend or someone asks you, they always use this expression: do you have a buck or two? My point is we use the word “BUCK” a lot in place of a dollar.

But have you every wondered why do we call a dollar a BUCK?

Hold your horses, today you will learn another piece of Killer tidbid that I doubt any normal person knows out there but its always a fun one to talk about, at party or somewhere and you can always show yourself as the “know it all kinda guy“.

Before, I answer the question, we have to know a bit about the word Dollar and Buck.

Dollar according to Etymology Dictionary, (for those of you that do not know what is Etymology here is a short definition “the history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language“)


1553, from Low Ger. daler, from Ger. taler (1540, later thaler), abbrev. of Joachimstaler, lit. “(gulden) of Joachimstal,” coin minted 1519 from silver from mine opened 1516 near Joachimstal, town in Erzgebirge Mountains in northwest Bohemia. Ger. Tal is cognate with Eng. dale. Ger. thaler was a large silver coin of varying value in the Ger. states (and a unit of the Ger. monetary union of 1857-73 equal to three marks); it was also a currency unit in Denmark and Sweden. Eng. colonists in America used the word in ref. to Spanish pieces of eight. Continental Congress July 6, 1785, adopted dollar when it set up U.S. currency, on suggestion of Gouverneur Morris and Thomas Jefferson, because the term was widely known but not British. But none were actually used until 1794. The dollar sign ($) is said to derive from the image of the Pillars of Hercules, stamped with a scroll, on the Spanish piece of eight. Phrase dollars to doughnuts attested from 1890; dollar diplomacy is from 1910.

Buck according to Etymology Dictionary

O.E. bucca “male goat,” from P.Gmc. *bukkon (cf. M.Du. boc, O.H.G. boc, O.N. bokkr), perhaps from a PIE base *bhugo (cf. Avestan buza “buck, goat,” Arm. buc “lamb”), but some speculate that it is from a lost pre-Gmc. language. Apparently O.E. also had buc “male deer.” The two words (if truly separate) were fully merged by c.1100. Verb is 1848, apparently with a sense of “jump like a buck.” Meaning of “dollar” is 1856, Amer.Eng., perhaps an abbreviation of buckskin, a unit of trade among Indians and Europeans in frontier days, attested in this sense from 1748. Buckshot is first recorded 1447; buck up “cheer up” is from 1844. Pass the buck is first recorded in the lit. sense 1865, Amer.Eng.:

Now, that we know the history behind the two words, it is time to answer the actual question – Why do we call a dollar a buck?

It is said that the Indians taught the European settlers the value of a buck, because just like goat, gold or other lifestock buckskin was used as a unit of trading, and from buckskin came the word buck, but that is not the reason why a dollar is called a buck. It became popular from the expression “the buck stops here” which was a well known used line in the game of frontier poker, in which the back was a knife made of buckhorn and that was passed around the table to indicate the person who was dealing, each time a hand was finished the dealer passed the buck to the next player and this is where the word BUCK became popular and was used as dollar.

Point to be noted

The dollar sign ($) is said to derive from the image of the Pillars of Hercules, stamped with a scroll, on the Spanish piece of eight. Phrase dollars to doughnuts attested from 1890; dollar diplomacy is from 1910.

It is a good thing that I myself am learning few new things, I did not know where the $ signed came from, now I know it. In a sense we are all learning and everyday we learn a new thing.

11 thoughts on “How the word “buck” came to mean dollar?”

  1. I always wondered why da heck do we use a BUCK, seriously a nice post and now I know the answer to the puzzling question.

  2. I have seen it on Wikianswers but this one is very well written and answers the question very well, telling us about the words and everything..

    good post keep it up

  3. I been searching for an answer to a question for years now, will you help me get the answer for it please?


    thank you

    PS – i have sent you email.

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