Despite being prevalent in the British Isles and the former colonies of the UK, you may be surprised to learn that the term ‘Pound’ actually originates in the Roman Empire.
The word Pound is based on the Latin word for a weight. Originally a Pound, therefore, was a weight of a wider currency. Think… a Pound of Sterling!
There are several countries that use the name Pound for their currency including Sudan, South Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. You can find out more about them below.
Egyptian Pound (EGP)
In 2016, the currency was allowed to freely float on the international markets however it has since depreciated in value against major western currencies.
In 2012, 1 USD was equal to around 6 EGP, today it’s nearly 20 EGP.
The country is suffering from widespread inflation and the country’s central bank has recently had to devalue the Pound.
Despite free-floating, the Egyptian Pound is subject to many Foreign Exchange controls and is widely viewed as a restricted currency.
Lebanese Pound (LBP)
In Lebanon, the currency is the ‘livre libanaise’ which is literally translated as Lebanese Pound. It is often referred to as the Pound or also the Lira.
Up until WW1, Lebanon was under the control of the Ottoman Empire and therefore the Turkish Pound was in use in this part of the world. Following the Ottomans defeat, France took over control of the area and introduced a single Pound currency for their new colonies of Lebanon and Syria. The currency was split in 1932 with the Lebanese Pound becoming an independent currency in its own right.
For a long time the currency was pegged to either the French Franc or the Pound Sterling. Following the Civil War in the 80s, the currency went through mass inflation and its subunit, the piastre ceased to be used.
South Sudanese Pound (SSP)
South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. It was founded in 2011 following a referendum on independence from Sudan.
For context, Sudan was always traditionally split between the Muslim majority north and the Christian majority south.
The South Sudanese currency (SSP) was introduced just before independence and sat at par with Sudan’s currency (also the Pound, SDG).
At its introduction, the two different Sudanese pounds were at parity, however South Sudan has experienced a whole host of problems from heavy inflation to civil war. Today 1 Sudanese Pound (SDG) is worth just 0.29 South Sudanese Pounds.
The South Sudanese Pound is split into 100 Piaster (pt) and when introduced it came in banknotes of £10, £20, £50 and £100. However, due to rapid inflation in 2018, a £500 note was introduced and last year a £1000 note was introduced.
For the last couple of years, plans have been in place to replace the currency.
Sudanese Pound (SDG)
For a long time Sudan was controlled by the UK and Egypt together. The Egyptian Pound was officially used in the country. When Sudan gained formal independence in 1956, they introduced their own independent currency, the Sudanese Pound. It was introduced at par with the Egyptian Pound.
The Sudanese Pound went through several periods of high inflation and subsequent devaluation and ultimately had to be replaced in 1992 by the Sudanese Dinar. This remained the currency of the country until 2007 when following another bout of successive devaluations, the second Sudanese Pound was introduced into circulation.
Sudan split in two in 2011 and the new Republic of South Sudan chose to introduce their own currency confusingly also called the Pound. When talking about the pound in Sudan it can be easy to get confused! Both currencies are fully separate and independent of one another.
Syrian Pound (SYP)
The Syrian Pound has been in use since France took over control of the area after World War One. It follows a history very similar to Lebanon described above.
Up until WW1, Syria was under the control of the Ottoman Empire and therefore the Turkish Pound was in use in this part of the world. The Syrian Pound was introduced by the French and for many years was pegged to various currencies.
Following the outbreak of the Syrian Civil in the last decade, the currency has seen a significant decline in value. It has been heavily affected by direct US sanctions.
Pound Sterling (GBP)
Pretty much for as long as there has been an England, there has been the Pound. Even before 1066 and William the Conquerer, the British Isles have been using some form of Pound.
The Pound Sterling began back in the reign of King Offa of Mercia in the 600s. At this time (in theory, if not in practice) 240 silver coins made up a Pound in weight.
The term Sterling is therefore linked to the metal silver and the term Pound is linked to the literal unit of weight.
Pennies were introduced in the 1100s and the first Pound coins were introduced in the 1400s. The first Shillings were introduced in the 1500s.
In 1921, the Bank of England began issuing paper banknotes. When HM King Charles III begins to appear on banknotes in the coming years, he will be only the second monarch to have featured on a British banknote.
Because of the Pound Sterling’s long history, its units and subunits became more and more complex and arguably illogical over time.
In 1971 the currency was decimalised and in 1984 the halfpenny was removed from circulation, leaving us with the currency we know today.