The real (in Brazilian Portuguese; pl. reais) is the present-day currency of Brazil. Its sign is R$ and its ISO code is BRL. It is subdivided into 100 centavos (hundredths). In Brazil, the decimal separator is a comma, and a period may be used as thousands separator, as in R$ 123.456,78.
The modern real was introduced in 1994 as part of the Plano Real, a substantial monetary reform package that aimed to put an end to three decades of rampant inflation. At the time it was meant to have approximately fixed 1:1 exchange rate with the United States dollar. It suffered a sudden devaluation to a rate of about 2:1 in 1999, reached almost 4:1 in 2002, then partly recovered and has been approximately 2:1 since 2006. The exchange rate as of January 22, 2010 is approximately BRL 1.82 to USD 1.00.
The first official currency of Brazil from 1690 to 1942 was also called real (plural réis, sign Rs$).
In Portuguese the word real means both royal and real. The name of the historic real derived from the first sense. The name of the modern currency is generally understood to refer both to the historic unit and to the second sense.
The dollar-like sign in the currency's symbol (both historic and modern), and in all the other past Brazilian currencies, is officially written with two vertical strokes rather than one. However Unicode considers the difference to be only a matter of font design, and does not have a separate code for the two-stroked version.