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Options Symbol

Description: Options Trading, Options Symbol, Puts, Calls, Options, Symbol, Expiration, Strike, Trader, Stock, Exchange

Each publicly traded stock has it's unique ticker, symbol. When a trader places an order he/she needs to know the symbol of the stock he/she is willing to buy or sell. Options are not exception of this rule - an options trader must know the symbol in order to place a trade. The difference is that a stock is a single entity which has one symbol, while there could be over thousand of the options on the same stock and as a result over thousand symbols. It is essential that an options trader must feel comfortable with using options symbols.

The options symbols are build by the certain rules and once a trader understands these rules there is no more confusion in the using option symbols.

The ticker symbol for US options is a set of 5 letters where the first three letters reveals the underlying stock, the next letter shows the expiration month and type of the option (call or put), the last letter points to the strike price. Basically, the option symbol has complete information about option contract: underlying stock, option type, options expiration and striker price. The formula of the building an option symbol is simple:

Option Symbol   Underlying Stock   Expiration Month
Option Type
  Strike Price
  • Every option symbol consists of three parts; 
  • The first part consists of three letters (ABC in the example above), which represent the name of the underlying security; 
  • The middle part (D in our example) represents the expiration month and identifies whether it is a call or a put option (see the table 1);
  • The last letter of an option symbol represents the strike price.
Table 1: Expiration month letters 
Expiration Month Call Options Put Options
January A M
February B N
March C O
April D P
May E Q
June F R
July G S
August H T
September I U
October J V
November K W
December L X

Options Symbol

  • SFBCH symbol stays for SPY call options with strike price $138 which expire in March.
    SFB - SPY option
    C - March expiration call option
    H - $138 Strike price
  • SFBOH symbol stays for SPY put options with strike price $138 which expire in March.
    SFB - SPY option
    O - March expiration put option
    H - $138 Strike price

The first three letters of the option symbol called root symbol. As a rule, the root symbol is the same as the underlying stock symbol that is traded on the exchange. This rule kept for the stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and American Stock Exchange (Amex). Yet, for the stocks traded on the NASDAQ Exchange the root symbol could differ. The reason for that is that the root symbol has always be a set of three letters, while the NASDAQ traded stocks have 4 letter in the ticker symbol.

In some cases the price of a underlying stock may moves so rapidly that it goes out of 'strike price letters' and additional symbols are required to satisfy demand on the new prices. In this cases we may see several root symbols for the options on the same stock. For instance SPYOY symbols stays for $129 March SPY option and SFBOZ stays for the $130 March SPY option. Both SPY and SFB root symbols correspond to the SPY stock.

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