Notwithstanding the fact that this subject evokes strong sentiment in some quarters, there is no express legally-prescriptive rule which unequivocally regulates the correct use of the terms ‘euro’ and ‘cent’ and, in particular, the use of the singular or plural forms of the words, albeit some guidelines do exist.

At Community level, the earlier European Union treaties (Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice) do not deal with this issue as they still refer to the ECU (European Currency Unit) whereas the Lisbon Treaty refers to the single currency as ‘the euro’. The only legal detail on this matter emerges from Council Regulations dealing with the introduction of the euro.

Recital 2 of Regulation 1103/97 notes the following: “whereas the name given to the European currency shall be the ‘euro’; whereas the euro as the currency of the participating Member States shall be divided into one hundred sub-units with the name ‘cent’; whereas the definition of the name ‘cent’ does not prevent the use of variants of this term in common usage in the Member States; whereas the European Council furthermore considered that the name of the single currency must be the same in all the official languages of the European Union, taking into account the existence of different alphabets;” Article 2 of Regulation 974/98 as amended then states that: “As from 1 January 1999 the currency of the Member State shall be the euro. The currency unit shall be one euro. One euro shall be divided into one hundred cent”. The language used in both these extracts is not particularly helpful in that it cannot be said to be expressly imposing (or indirectly implying) a prohibition on the use of the plural versions of these terms (save for the implication in Article 2 that “cent” should be used in plural contexts).

Similarly, on a local level, the Euro Adoption Act, Chapter 485 and the other Regulations in place regulating this area (Legal Notices 441/2007; 93/2007; 369/2007; 4/2007) make no express prescriptive provision as to the linguistic rules applicable to the currency terminology. In practice, local legislation generally uses the term ‘euro’ in the singular form in both the Maltese and English texts no matter the amount. It uses the term ‘cents’ in English and ‘ċenteżmu’ in Maltese.

In the absence of a clear, express prescriptive provision, we turned to the guidelines. The May 2007 Convergence Report issued by the European Central Bank clearly states that “Community law requires a single spelling of the word “euro” in the nominative singular case in all Community and national legislative provisions, taking into account the existence of different alphabets”. Unfortunately, we have not succeeded in locating any community legislation which expressly makes reference to the required use of the nominative singular nor have we been able to trace a legal source for the statement which implies that the rule stated therein is mandatory.

The EC DG for Translation considers this issue (among others) in its English Style Guide which states that: “Like ‘pound’, ‘dollar’ or any other currency name in English, the word ‘euro’ is written in lower case with no initial capital. Where appropriate, it takes the plural ‘s’ (as does ‘cent’): This book costs ten euros and fifty cents. However, in documents and tables where monetary amounts figure largely, make maximum use of the € symbol or the abbreviation EUR.  The Commission website, in its list setting out the spelling of ‘euro’ and ‘cent’ in the various languages as used in various community legislative acts, favours the singular (but the variants for Malta were not included).

The actual hard currency (coins and notes) uses the singular version of the terms ‘euro’ and ‘cent’ even where the currency unit refers plainly to more than one euro or cent. On a local level both the guideline set out in the 2007 publication of the European Commission Representation in Malta entitled ‘The Euro in Malta…too’ and the National Euro Changeover Committee guideline of 2006 (the “NECC Guideline”) suggest that the word ‘euro’ may be used in both the singular and plural form. As to the Maltese versions of the terminology, the National Council for the Maltese Language (the “Council”) in its meeting of the 3rd November, 2005, proposed that “the names of the European Currency in Maltese be ‘ewro’ (singular masculine noun; plural: ‘ewro’) and ‘ċenteżmu’ (singular masculine noun; plural: ‘ċenteżmi’).”  However, the NECC Guideline states that “All legal texts and legal instruments in the Maltese language shall apply the term ‘euro’ and the plural shall also be ‘euro’” but concedes that “the terms ‘euro’ and ‘ewro’ shall carry the same legal validity, definition and interpretation in any law, contract and legal instrument”.

As the legal position is not so clear, the approach adopted by us was one of preference based on the balance of the materials reviewed. The material set out in the table below attempts to strike a balance between legal imperatives and everyday speech within the existing legal parameters.

 

Terms – Abbreviation – Symbol (English)

 Description and FORMAL Use in ENGLISH


euro

·         The official name of the currency;

·         Use when expressing amounts of the currency in words;

·         Use after having stated the amount not before e.g. three thousand euro NOT euro three thousand;

·         Use the uncapitalised spelling in all cases: euro NOT Euro;

·         Use the singular spelling even when the amount is greater than one e.g. three thousand euro NOT three thousand euros.

 


EUR

·         The official abbreviation for the euro currency (as per ISO 4217);

·         Do not use with anything but figures e.g. EUR 3,000 NOT three thousand EUR or EUR three thousand;

·         Use primarily as a heading in tables and documents where monetary amounts figure largely;

·         Leave a space between the symbol and the figures e.g. EUR 3,000 NOT EUR3,000.

·         Use only before stating the amount not after e.g. EUR 3,000 NOT 3,000 EUR.

 


·         The symbol for the euro currency;

·         Do not use with anything but figures e.g. €3,000 NOT three thousand €;

·         Can be used as a heading in tables and documents where monetary amounts figure largely;

·         Do not leave a space between the symbol and the figures e.g. €3,000 NOT  3,000;

·         Avoid using this symbol in emails and instead opt for EUR as it is often corrupted when emails are transmitted (especially from mobiles).

 

 

cent

·         The official name for the euro currency subdivision;

·         Use when expressing amounts of the currency in words;

·         No need to refer to it as a “euro cent”;

·         No official abbreviation for this term exists; the cent sign used by other currencies (¢ or “c”) are hardly ever used and are not recommended;

·         Use the uncapitalised spelling in all cases: cent NOT Cent;

·         Some texts suggest using the singular spelling even when the amount is greater than one e.g. three thousand euro and five cent; we view this as artificial and favour the use of the plural when the amount is greater than one.

 

 

Terms (Maltese)

 Description and FORMAL Use in MALTESE

 

ewro

·         The official Maltese name of the currency;

·         Use when expressing amounts of the currency in words;

·         Use after having stated the amount not before e.g. tlett elef ewro NOT ewro tlett elef;

·         Use the uncapitalised spelling in all cases: ewro NOT Ewro;

·         Use the singular spelling even when the amount is greater than one e.g. tlett elef ewro NOT tlett elef ewri;

·         Avoid using spelling “euro” with an “e” followed by the “u” as orthographically it is incorrect to have two vowels together (unless each vowel is pronounced separately, which is not the case here).

 

 

ċenteżmu

·         The official name for the euro currency subdivision;

·         Use when expressing amounts of the currency in words;

·         No need to refer to it as “ewro ċenteżmu”;

·         The National Council for the Maltese Language allows for the use of the abbreviation “ċ”;

·         Use the uncapitalised spelling in all cases: ċenteżmu NOT Ċenteżmu;

·         Use the plural spelling when the amount is between 2 and 10 (both amounts included) e.g.tlett elef ewro u hames ċenteżmi NOT tlett elef ewro u hames ċenteżmu;

·         Use the singular spelling when the amount is 1 or 11 or more e.g. tlett elef ewro u hamsin ċenteżmu NOT tlett elef ewro u hamsin ċenteżmi.

 

 

This is an information-sharing exercise and this article is not intended and should not be relied on as an authoritative statement on the proper use of ‘euro’ terminology.