Chinese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Chinese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

from: List of historical Chinese currency terms

角 (litterally a corner / a horn of an animal) = 毛 (litterally "a feather of a bird") = 1/10 the main unit.

Why use 角 and 毛 for, what we might call in American English, 10-cents?

share|improve this question
Are you asking about the evolution of the word or how 1/10th of a dollar represents 10 cents. – 50-3 Jun 17 '14 at 11:02
I'm asking why 角字 and 毛字 are used to represent 1/10th of a 元. – user3306356 Jun 17 '14 at 11:16
I've never used 角 in oral communication. It's always 毛. 角 is usually used in written though. both 角and 毛 mean 10 cents – Ike Jun 17 '14 at 13:30
That's not true. I always use 角. Both are correct, and that isn't what the question is asking for. – ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq Jun 18 '14 at 2:21
You've generalised an individual preference into a language-wide feature. This is simply a bad linguistic practice. In addition, you didn't really answer the question. – deutschZuid Jun 18 '14 at 23:41
up vote 9 down vote accepted

角 came from 銀角, which was historically a currency that represented a fraction of the silver coin (銀元). 元 came from 圓, a description of the coin's circular shape. A theory for 角's use is that since the basic meaning of 角 is a horn; by extension it came to be used to describe "things that looks like horns". And from there, "corners" 角落, "angles" 角度, etc. Dividing a circle up like pizza slices creates a "角"; hence, the divisions of one 元 (圓) came to be called a 角.

As Carmelos said, 毛 came from a simplification of 毫 - it is the bottom radical of the latter. 毫 in turn comes from one of the traditional Chinese unit for small numbers: 分 厘 毫 絲, corresponding to the modern 10-3 (it is still used for millimetres, 毫米/公厘). A theory is that 毛钱 was a type of coinage in the Song dynasty that had very small values, as its name suggests. The term persisted in that meaning of a "small denomination coin", and thus became synonymous with the modern small 角 coins.

share|improve this answer
I thought it might be relevant to note that in Cantonese, 毫 is still used as the colloquial term for 10 cents. – Claw Jun 17 '14 at 17:01

I don't know how good you are at Chinese, you can read this Chinese wikipedia page for more information:角_(貨幣)

"毛" is simplified from "毫", which means little amount. In Chinese we have a saying as "一分一毫", which means very little amount. In most part of China, "毛" and "角" are interchangeable.

share|improve this answer

To answer the question why use them:

Similarly people use dime, nickel, or penny. It is a convenient way to saying 10 cents (分)

share|improve this answer
There is a lot more to that. People don't just pick a random word and start to use it to refer to something. There is a whole science behind it called historical linguistics. – deutschZuid Jun 18 '14 at 23:46

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.