The piastre or piaster (English: /piˈæstər/) is any of a number of
units of currency. The term originates from the Italian for "thin
metal plate". The name was applied to Spanish and Hispanic American
pieces of eight, or pesos, by Venetian traders in the
Levant in the
These pesos, minted continually for centuries, were readily accepted
by traders in many parts of the world. After the countries of Latin
America had gained independence, pesos of Mexico began flowing in
through the trade routes, and became prolific in the Far East, taking
the place of the Spanish pieces of eight which had been introduced by
the Spanish at Manila, and by the Portuguese at Malacca. When the
French colonised Indochina, they began issuing the new French
Indochinese piastre (piastre de commerce), which was equal in value to
the familiar Spanish and Mexican pesos.
In the Ottoman Empire, successive currency reforms had reduced the
value of the Ottoman piastre by the late 19th century so as to be
worth about two pence (2d) sterling. Hence the name piastre referred
to two distinct kinds of coins in two distinct parts of the world,
both of which had descended from the Spanish pieces of eight.
Because of the debased values of the piastres in the Middle East,
these piastres became subsidiary units for the Turkish, Cypriot, and
Egyptian pounds. Meanwhile, in Indochina, the piastre continued into
the 1950s and was subsequently renamed the riel, the kip, and the dong
1 As a main unit
2 As a sub-unit
3 Informal usage
4 See also
As a main unit
French Indochinese piastre
Ottoman Turkish piastre
As a sub-unit
1/100 of the Egyptian pound
1/100 of the Jordanian dinar
1/100 of the Lebanese pound
1/100 of the Libyan pound
1/100 of the South Sudanese pound
1/100 of the Sudanese pound
1/100 of the Syrian pound
1/180 of the Cypriot pound
Early private bank currency issues in French-speaking regions of
Canada were denominated in piastres. The term is still unofficially
used in Quebec, Acadian, Franco-Manitoban, and Franco-Ontarian
language as a reference to the
Canadian dollar (the official French
term for the modern
Canadian dollar is dollar). When used colloquially
in this way, the term is often pronounced and spelled "piasse" or
"pyahs" (pl. "piasses"). It was based on 120 units (sous), a quarter
of which was "30 sous", which is also still in slang use when
referring to 25 cents.
Piastre was also the original French word for the United States
dollar, used for example in the French text of the Louisiana Purchase.
Calling the US dollar a piastre is still common among the millions of
Cajun French and New England French. Modern French uses
dollar for this unit of currency as well. The term is still used as
slang for US dollars in the French-speaking Caribbean islands, most
Many newcomers to Canada, specifically, Quebec, mistakenly pronounce
the term as "pièce" from pièce de monnaie (coin) but it is really
pronounced as "piasse" in French (Canadian) or "pyahs" in English
Piastre is another name for kuruş, 1/100 of the Turkish new lira, as
well as the old lira.
The piastre is still used in
Mauritius when bidding in auction sales,
similarly to the way that guineas are used at racehorse auctions. It
is equivalent to 2 rupees.
Eckfeldt, Jacob Reese; Du Bois, William Ewing; Saxton, Joseph (1842).
A manual of gold and silver coins of all nations, struck within the
past century. Showing their history, and legal basis, and their actual
weight, fineness, and value chiefly from original and recent assays.
With which are incorporated treatises on bullion and plate,
counterfeit coins, specific gravity of precious metals, etc., with
recent statistics of the production and coinage of gold and silver in
the world, and sundry useful tables. Assay Office of the Mint.