When the bitcoin whitepaper was launched, there was no currency symbol for bitcoin. Originally, it was just a simple “BC”, “Bitcoin”. Now, the pretty universally accepted symbol for Bitcoin is a “B” with two strokes on the top and bottom, similar to the dollar sign with two strokes. Interestingly, it is only possible to type out a two-stroke dollar in some font styles.
Also interestingly, a ₿, even when hand-written, seems to only have the top and bottom strokes, without the lines going through the letter, unlike the dollar, which typically has lines going though when hand-written, but when typed out may be either version.
I guess there just aren't a lot of situations where you'd be writing out a bitcoin symbol by hand, but I can think of one historic moment where it was (pictured below). Oddly enough, he used one stroke, all the way through the B.
Bitcoin is permissionless, so although “₿” is not the official bitcoin symbol, is pretty much universally accepted as such.
How To Type ₿
How To Type ₿ On A Mac
MacOS does not come with a native way to type the bitcoin symbol, but there are two ways to customize your Mac so that you can type a “₿” pretty easily.
The one you'll read about most is not my favorite method, but it works. You need to add the unicode keyboard to your keyboard options. This can be done in a couple of clicks.
- System Preferences
- Input Sources
- (+) Symbol
- Search “Unicode Hex”
- Toggle keyboard options in the top menu bar of your desktop
You can see the whole process of how to do this video about typing special characters on a Mac. Getting access to the unicode keyboard will also allow you to access other symbols and even emojis.
Once you do that, you hold down the option key (⌥), then type “20BF” (still holding down option), and the symbol will appear.
There are two downsides to this method.
First, it's kind of a pain to type five different keys to insert one symbol. Second, using the unicode keyboard means you'll lose some other keyboard shortcuts from the standard keyboard, meaning you'll have to flip between both keyboards depending on what type of special symbols you usually type. Yet another extra step.
Personally, I've set up my Mac to simply have some custom keyboard shortcuts through text combinations. Not only does this allow me to keep my standard keyboard active, but I can also use non-unicode symbols and have those on deck ready to deploy as well.
To set this up:
- System Preferences
- (+) Symbol
- Enter your desired text combination and symbol
As you can see from the image above, I've chosen some uncommon text combinations to represent common symbols I use here on my blog, including bitcoin (₿), ether (Ξ), and sats (丰, ϟ, §). Uncommon text combinations are important because the symbol will appear as an option any time you type those letters together, and if you hit space or enter afterward, the symbol locks in automatically. That means if you use common letter combinations “th” or “oo” as a custom symbol, you'll probably make more work for yourself rather than save yourself time.
How To Type ₿ On Windows
Windows comes with the native ability to interpret and type unicode, so it's much easier than Mac. Open any word document, type the numeric code for the bitcoin symbol (20BF), then highlight the text, and hit Alt+X.
You can just hold the Alt key while typing 8383. I do not know why the Alt+X code is different from the Alt code, but that's the way it is. Make sure that your number lock on the keypad is enabled with this second method.
How To Type ₿ On Linux
With Linux, it's very simple to type any unicode, though the keys you need to press are different. Hold Ctrl+Shift+U, then type in the alphanumeric code 20BF.
How To Type ₿ On An iPhone (🌽)
To type a ₿ on an iPhone, you'll need to install a special keyboard app on your phone. Download Gboard from the app store, then activate it in your iOS keyboard settings.
- Turn on Google keyboard
- Go into a text app or document and hit the globe icon on your keyboard to switch keyboards
- Press and hold the dollar sign to access the bitcoin symbol
When you activate Gboard, my advice is to not give it “full access”, otherwise the developer can see everything you type, including old texts!
This of course means you'll need yet another app installed on your phone, which is kind of annoying to do just so you can type one symbol every once in a while. It'll depend on how bad you want it, and how often you type ₿.
Alternatively, you could simply copy/paste the symbol to a note on your notepad, then copy/paste it as you need it. Also not convenient, but it doesn't require an additional app.
My personal favorite is to use the corn emoji (🌽), since it's a common meme that “bitcoin” is “corn”, thanks to a mispronunciation one guy did one time.
How To Type ₿ On Android
For Android phones, the native Google keyboard should have the bitcoin symbol ready to go. Just long-press the dollar sign and a number of alternative currency symbols will pop up, including bitcoin.
If you want something more accessible you can navigate to your personal dictionary, and you can add the bitcoin symbol as an autocorrect for when you type a series of characters you designate. For example, if you type btc, you could have your keyboard suggest ₿ as the correction.
- Gboard Settings (Gear Icon)
- Personal Dictionary
- hit (+)
- Paste or Type “₿”
- Add Shortcut
- hit (√)
Two More Bitcoin Symbols To Type
Thai Bhat (฿)
For a while, there were people who championed the use of the Thai Bhat symbol for bitcoin, since it had the full stroke all the way through the letter B, similar to a dollar sign. The currency symbol was also more accessible at the time since ₿ wasn't added to unicode until 2017. However, this is obviously confusing in a global context.
Letter Beta (Ƀ)
Another proposed symbol for bitcoin which also looks a lot like the letter B is the letter beta, which is a letter from the Latin alphabet, which uses the phonetic sound β. In phonetics, it's very similar to the sound “v” makes, though slightly different. The sound is irrelevant to the use as a bitcoin symbol. It's just an interesting bit of information I wanted to include.
The letter Ƀ (lower case written as ƀ), is what is recommended by BitcoinSymbol.org, the same organization that brought us the sats symbol. Unlike the sats symbol, which seems to be catching on, I've never actually seen the Ƀ symbol used in the wild. For now, everyone seems to be sticking with ₿ for now.
The Sat Symbol
Though people pretty much agree that the bitcoin symbol is ₿, there is still plenty of debate about what should be used for fractions of a bitcoin, called sats. Fractions of dollars are called cents (¢), so why shouldn't fractions of a bitcoin have a name too?
As of now, the symbol I see most frequently used is 丰. The symbolism and logic behind it is explained at SatSymbol.com. However, I've seen competing proposals for ϟ (Greek lower case letter koppa) as well as § (section symbol in legal code).
Some people even say that there shouldn't be a separate symbol for sats, and we should just start calling fractions of a bitcoin “bitcoin”, and that 100,000,000 bitcoin should have a different name like a Giga Bitcoin of Whole Coin.
What's The Proper Bitcoin Ticker & Currency Code?
When you search for bitcoin on an exchange, similar to how stocks are listed on a stock exchange, it's listed with a “ticker”. A stock ticker is a 1 or 4 letter combination that represents the company, so you don't have to write out the entire company name in confined platforms. For example, Amazon is AMZN, Ford is F, and Facebook is FB. Traditionally, this was so that you could fit company names on ticker tape, which was a small strip of paper transmitted via telegraph. These days, it makes it convenient to list stocks on mobile phones.
Another system that uses shorthand to represent units is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) currency code (4217) system. You'll recognize currencies such as USD (US Dollar), CAD (Canadian Dollar), EUR (Euro), JPY (Japanese Yen), and the Yuan (RMB).
People buy and sell bitcoin like a stock, but bitcoin is money. So, what is bitcoin's ticker and what's bitcoin's currency code? Actually, they are two different things.
If you've bought bitcoin before, you probably would recognize BTC as being the most common representation of bitcoin listings on exchanges. However, BTC can't be used for its currency code because violates the currency code rules of starting with “BT”, which is the country code of Bhutan. Commodity monies such as gold and platinum are listed with an “X” preceding their elemental unit, so gold is XAU and platinum is XPT, so it makes sense that the currency code for bitcoin is XBT.
99% of places will list bitcoin as BTC, but the last time I logged into Kraken, one of the largest crypto exchanges in the world, they still had bitcoin listed as XBT. Bitmex, another massive exchange, also uses XBT, so it's at least something you should be aware of.
Bitcoin has been “forked” many times into projects which claimed they were the original bitcoin, or a better bitcoin. Of course, their values plummeted after forking and have very little activity on their network.
Did you know that at one time there was an attempted fork of bitcoin called Bitcoin XT that used the symbol XBT? The fork was not widely adopted and is no longer active, unlike the ones listed below. There are actually hundreds of bitcoin forks out there, but here are some of the more widely known ones that have survived. The only one of these three that actually gets used in the wild is Bitcoin Cash.
- BCH: Bitcoin Cash is an attempt to make bitcoin transactions cheaper.
- BTG: Bitcoin Gold is an attempt to expand the functionality of bitcoin.
- BTD: Bitcoin Diamond is an attempt to make Bitcoin transactions faster.
Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC)
Another type of bitcoin you might run into, and one that is arguably more popular even than the bitcoin forks listed above, is WBTC, which is wrapped bitcoin. Wrapped bitcoin allows you to use your bitcoin holdings on the Ethereum network.
WBTC is an ERC-20 token that can be used like any other asset on Ethereum, giving you access to DeFi protocols, staking, smart contracts, DAOs, and other Ethereum buzzwords.
The trouble with wrapped bitcoin is that it isn't bitcoin. It's a token managed by a private company, so you're introducing 3rd party risk. Plus, you're using Ethereum, so you can expect way higher transaction fees.