According to people I've asked, and this page, if I pay 20 Australian dollars for my meal, it seems I say ni ju doru (20-ドル), and that ni ju-en doru (20-えん-ドル) would be ungrammatical - "dollar" acts as the counter.

Is it possible to refer to the Australian dollar as a noun in other circumstances (eg while talking about how the dollar fared on the exchange market)? If so, is this only because it's a loanword, or can the same apply with native Japanese words?

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    I think you meant to write ドル instead of ヅル ..
    – Lukman
    Sep 8, 2011 at 14:00
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    @Lukman: Thanks! イソターネット desu. :(
    – Golden Cuy
    Sep 8, 2011 at 14:06
  • When discussing exchange rates etc., Yen (or any other currency) are commonly used as nouns. To answer the more general question of your title: there are several counters that are also nouns (本, 面, 人 etc.), though quite obviously they do not have the same exact meaning...
    – Dave
    Sep 8, 2011 at 16:50
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    I still don't understand why you have えん there.
    – user458
    Sep 10, 2011 at 14:49
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    No. That is not the problem. えん and ドル are both currencies. I don't see why you have two currencies. It is like saying '3 meter inch'.
    – user458
    Sep 10, 2011 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


A quick Google search brought me to this Amazon page for a book with title 「強い円は日本の国益」, which is an example where the counter for Japanese Yen 円 is used as a noun to refer to the currency unit, thus I believe counter words for currencies can be used as nouns.

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EDIT: StackExchange engine breaks the Amazon Japan link again so here are the raw URL (you need to copy-paste): http://www.amazon.co.jp/%E5%BC%B7%E3%81%84%E5%86%86%E3%81%AF%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E3%81%AE%E5%9B%BD%E7%9B%8A-%E6%A6%8A%E5%8E%9F-%E8%8B%B1%E8%B3%87/dp/4492395008

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    You are right that currency names can be used also as nouns. Example: 円を売ってドルを買う市場介入 (market intervention (by the Bank of Japan) to sell the yen and buy the dollar). Sep 8, 2011 at 15:54
  • I tried to fix the link to Amazon.co.jp by using this workaround, but I rolled it back because it did not seem to work. Sorry for the noise in the post history. Sep 8, 2011 at 16:13

I think there are some coincidences, but for the most part I don't think you can just use a counter suffix as its own noun. Unless you're explicitly using it as the topic of a sentence to describe what the counter means.

For example, 匹【ひき】 (counter for animals) could not be used as a noun by itself...unless your sentence is 「『匹』とは小さな動物を数える助数詞です。」("Hiki" is a counter for counting small animals.

I previously said that there are some coincidences. For example, 一本【いっぽん】 means 1 cylindrical object. Now by itself is a word -- "book". But you would never use it by itself in the context of a cylindrical object; only as a book.

Likewise, 〜頭【とう】 is used for counting "heads of animals" like cows, etc. (see posts HERE and HERE for discussions about which animals can be counted this way). by itself is あたま (or less frequently, かしら or こうべ) and means "head". But you would never use by itself in the context of "heads of animals".

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    It is correct that counter words usually cannot be used as nouns. Currencies are exceptions. Sep 8, 2011 at 15:55
  • @Tsuyoshi Ito - I'm just thinking off the top of my head here, but as a rough rule of thumb, do you think that counter words which take 大和言葉 numbers are mostly stand-alone nouns? The only exception that pops into my mind immediately is "一重".
    – rdb
    Sep 8, 2011 at 19:10
  • @rdb: I cannot think of many counter words that are 大和言葉, but you may be right. Looking at Wikipedia, 枝, 棹, and 手 are also used as nouns (I guess that the usage as a counter word comes after the usage as noun). (The list is not intended to be exhaustive.) Sep 8, 2011 at 19:42
  • @Tsuyoshi Ito - I meant to say that the numbers themselves were 大和言葉 (ひと、ふた、み、etc.), but now that I think about it, it's hard to come up with an example of ひと+漢語 as a counter, so I guess it doesn't make much practical difference. BTW, this page has a pretty impressive listing for anyone who's interested: benricho.org/kazu/a.html
    – rdb
    Sep 8, 2011 at 19:56
  • @rdb: Sorry, I had misread your comment; but fortunately, as you said, it is not very different after all. Sep 8, 2011 at 19:59

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