What do the Latin phrases and symbols on the dollar bill mean?

Whether you call it a buck, a single, a one, or a bill, the linen and cotton-blend currency resting in your wallet at this very moment contains a smorgasbord of images, symbols and Latin phrases – some hidden in plain sight. What do they mean and, once deciphered, can they unlock a series of veiled messages from our forefathers?

The word dollar is derived from taler or thaler (pronounced “dollar”), a series of large, silver coins minted in Germany in the 1500’s and mined at a place called Joachimsthaler – located in what is now known as, the Czech Republic. The German tal is a cognate to the English “dale.”  In 1785, the Continental Congress adopted “dollar” to represent the United States currency primarily because the term was already highly recognizable throughout the world.

The portrait of George Washington featured on the obverse (front) was created by the American portraitist, Gilbert Stuart, and is referred to as The Athenaeum Portrait – named for the Boston Athenaeum that would later purchase the painting. Interestingly, the portrait was begun in 1796 but was never finished. The unfinished rendering of Washington has adorned the bill since 1869.

Look closely at the large number “1” located in the upper right hand corner of the bill; presumably hidden in the leaf, and what looks like a spider web design, is an owl or maybe a spider. Some believe the Freemasons are responsible for the hidden image of the owl, a known Mason symbol for ‘knowledge.’ Or perhaps the phenomenon of pareidolia – an imagined perception of meaning where it does not actually exist – is at play here.

From the number of arrows in the right claw of the eagle to the layers of granite stone in the pyramid, the number thirteen is referenced repeatedly on the reverse side of the bill; probably a reference to the original thirteen colonies, or as some conspiracy theorists would have you believe, a direct reference to the thirteen Illuminati bloodlines. Reference to the illuminati can also be found in the depiction of the “Eye Of Providence,” also referred to as the “All-seeing Eye” displayed atop the pyramid. The eye first appeared as part of the standard iconography of the Freemasons with the publication of Thomas Smith Webb’s “Freemason Monitor” in 1797.

(What does Illuminati actually mean? Find out here)

There are two mottos scribed in Latin on the reverse of the dollar bill that have been directly linked to the works of the Roman poet Virgil. The first phrase is located just above the eye and reads, Annuit Coeptis. Derived from the Latin annuo, meaning “to nod” or “to approve” and coeptum, “undertakings,” the phrase literally translates as “He approves of the undertakings.” And the phrase Novus ordo seclorum, located just below the pyramid, literally translates as “New world order.”