Slang terms for money
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Slang terms for money often derive from the appearance and features of banknotes or coins, their values, historical associations or the units of currency concerned. Within a single language community some of the slang terms vary across social, ethnic, economic, and geographic strata, but others have become the dominant way of referring to the currency and are regarded as mainstream, acceptable language (e.g., "buck" for a dollar or similar currency in various nations including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Nigeria and the United States).
The five-cent coin is sometimes referred to as "shrapnel", or “shrappers,” as the smallest remaining coin in value and physical size. This nickname was inherited from one- and two-cent coins when they were abolished in 1996.
A ten-dollar note is known colloquially as a "tenner", a "Banjo" (relating to poet A.B. Patterson) or a"Pavarotti" (Luciano Pavarotti being a tenor, and "tenor" being a homophone for "tenner").
The plastic (third series) twenty-dollar note is sometimes called a "lobster" in reference to its distinctive red-orange colour, and the third series fifty-dollar note is known as a "pineapple" or the "Big Pineapple" because of its yellow colour.
Pre-decimal currency in Australia had a variety of slang terms for its various denominations. The sixpence was often referred to as a "zack", which was an Australian / New Zealand term referring to a coin of small denomination. The term was also used to refer to short prison term such as 6 months. An Australian shilling, like its British counterpart, was commonly referred to as a "bob", and the florin was consequently known as "two bob". Similarly, one Australian pound was colloquially described as a "quid", "fiddly", or "saucepan", the latter as rhyming slang for "saucepan lid/quid". The five-pound note could be referred to as a "fiver", or its derivatives, "deep sea diver" and "sky diver".
A number of post-decimal denominations which have since been discontinued had their own nicknames. The two-dollar note was known as the "sick sheep" in reference to its green colour and the merino ram that it showed. The paper (first and second series) hundred-dollar note was nicknamed the "grey ghost", or the "Bradman" in recognition of its proximity to the 99.94 batting average of cricketer Donald Bradman.
The two-dollar coin is known as the toonie, a portmanteau combining the number two with loonie. It is occasionally spelled twonie; Canadian newspapers and the Royal Canadian Mint use the toonie spelling.
A five-dollar note is known colloquially as a fin, a fiver, or half a sawbuck.
A ten-dollar note is known colloquially as a ten-spot, a dixie, or a sawbuck.
Since Canadians and Americans both refer to their respective currencies as "the dollar," and because the two countries tend to mingle both socially and in the media, there is a lot of overlap in slang terms for money. However, this usually only extends to terms that are not specific to one country or the other. For example, both Canadians and Americans refer to a $100 note as a C-note, but an American might refer to it as a Benjamin, after its portrait of Benjamin Franklin, while a Canadian might refer to it as a Borden, after its portrait of Robert Borden.
Since its introduction in 1999, a number of slang terms for the euro have emerged, though differences between languages mean that they are not common across the whole of the eurozone. Some terms are inherited from the legacy currencies, such as quid from the Irish pound and various translations of fiver or tenner being used for notes. The German Teuro is a play on the word teuer, meaning 'expensive'. The Deutsche Mark by comparison was approximately worth half as much as the euro (at a ratio of 1.95583:1) and some grocers and restaurants have been accused of taking advantage of the smaller numbers to increase their actual prices with the changeover by rounding to 2:1, in Portugal the same has happened and usually use the term "Aéreo" with the meaning of "Aéreal", the currency that flies away. In Flanders the lower value copper coins are known as koper (copper) or rosse (~ginger, referring to the colour). Ege in Finland and Pavo (which is the usual Spanish translation of buck on movies or TV shows when it refers to dollars) in Spain are also terms applied to the euro.
In India slang names for coins are more common than the currency notes. For 5 paisa (100 paisa is equal to 1 Indian rupee) it is 'panji'. A 10 paisa coin is called 'dassi' and for 20 paisa it is 'bissi'. A 25 paisa coin is called 'chavanni' (equal to 4 annas) and 50 paisa is 'athanni' (8 annas). However, in recent years, due to inflation, the use of these small value coins has declined, and so has the use of these slang terms. The more prevalent terms now (particularly in Mumbai and in Bollywood movies) are 'peti' for a Lakh (Rs. 100,000) and 'khokha' for a Crore (Rs. 10,000,000.) and 'tijori' for 100 crores (Rs. 1,000,000,000.) Peti also means suitcase, which is the volume needed to carry a Lakh of currency notes. Tijori means a large safe or a cupboard, which would be the approximate space required to store that money in cash form. Due to the real estate boom in recent times, businessmen also use the terms '2CR' or '3CR' referring to two crores and three crores respectively.
In Kenya there are about 42 different languages, which have different dialects and indigenous names for money, in addition to the official National languages of Swahili and English. In English, Kenyan currency is a Shilling while in Swahili it is "Shilingi." (Indeed, all East African countries refer to their money as Shillings.)
Other notable names include:
|chapaa, pesa, munde, mundez, mulla, dough, ganji, cheddaz, cheddar/mkwanja||Mbesha||Otongloh/Mafarangah|
In addition, youth have a sub-culture street language for the different denominations. Using the street slang (sheng), urbanites often amalgamate Swahili, English, and their mother-tongue to concoct meanings and names for the different denominations. Among the commonly used terms are:
|1.00||Ksh.1||bob/1bob (wan bob)shilingi|
|Coin & Notes||5.00||Kshs.5||Ngovo/Guoko/kobuang'/kobole|
|Coin||40.00||Kshs.40||Jongo/Kiroosi||Jongo ya tefo/Ki-roo-see
(disambiguation for one of fmr Pres. Kibaki's wives: Mama Lucy Kibaki)
|200.00||Kshs.200||soo mbili/soo mbeh/rwabe|
|500.00||Kshs.500||five soc||soo tano/punch/jirongo|
|1000.00||Kshs.1000||1K||a thao/tenga/ngiri/ngwanye/bramba/ndovu/muti/kapaa/kei(for letter 'K')
gee(for letter 'G')
(doesn't exist in notation)
In writing, money is denoted by "Kshs" before or the slang notation "/=" after. For examples, Kshs.1.00 is one-bob, whereas 5,000/= is five-Kei.
Corruption is rampant in the Kenyan government, and corrupt officials in government agencies often refer to illicit kickbacks as "chickens" to avoid anti-corruption and money laundering enforcement.
In Malaysia there is a difference between states in their names for money. Normally "cents" are called "sen", but in the northern region (Penang, Kedah, Perlis) "sen" are called "kupang" and the "det" (pronounce date) means money. For example, "weh aku takdak det" and 50 sen/cents is called 5 kupang and not 50 kupang.
In the East Coast Region ( Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang), they still used sen. But only for the value of 50 cents, they replace it with the word se-amah ( where "se" refer to one in Malay), if it's RM 1 (100 cents), it will be called dua-amah ( "Dua" is two in Malay), and so on.
And, exclusively in Kelantan, they don't refer the value of money in "ringgit", for example, in other states, RM 10 is called 10 ringgit, RM 25 is called 25 ringgit and so on. But, in Kelantan, they replaced the word "ringgit" with "riyal", for example, RM 10 is usually called 10 ringgit, but in Kelantan, it's called 10 riyal. This might be because Kelantan is an "Islamic state" on which the administration of the state is mostly by ulama.
The Russian language has slang terms for various amounts of money. Slang names of copeck coins derive from old Russian pre-decimal coins and are rarely in use today: an "altyn" is three copecks, a "grivennik" is ten copecks, a "pyatialtynny" ("five-altyns") is fifteen copecks, and a "dvugrivenny" ("two-grivenniks") is 20 copecks. Most of these coins are of Soviet mint and no longer used; only the ten copeck coin remains in circulation.
The word "chervonets" means ten rubles and refers to an early 20th-century gold coin of the same name. It is also called "chirik" (a diminutive for chervonets). The words for bank notes from 50 to 1000 rubles are the newest and most modern, since currently (2000s-2010s) bank notes of this value are most common in circulation. (an old word that originally meant 50 copecks), 100 rubles are called "stol'nik" (a neologism from the Russian word "sto", meaning one hundred, not related to the Muscovite office of the same name), 500 rubles are called "pyatihatka" (lit. "five huts"), and 1000 rubles are called "shtuka" ("thing"), "kusok" ("piece") or "kosar'" ("mower").
Slang words for greater amounts of money originate from the 1990s and the Russian Civil War eras, when the ruble was suffering hyperinflation. The most common are "limon" (lemon) for a million rubles and "arbuz" (watermelon) for a billion rubles.
South African slang for various amounts of money borrows many terms from the rest of the English speaking world, such as the word "grand" when referring to R1,000. Other words are unique to South Africa, such as the term "choc" when referring to a R20 note. The slang word for money is 'kroon'. One "bar" refers to an amount of R1,000,000.
Among the English speaking communities "Bucks" is commonly used to refer to Rands (South African Currency). Less commonly used is the Afrikaans slang for Rands which is "Bokke", the plural of Bok; The Afrikaans word for antelope ("Bucks" being the English equivalent), derived from the Springbok image on the R 1 coin. e.g. R 100 = 100 Bucks/Bokke, R 5 = 5 Bucks/Bokke etc.
|2 Bob||.20||a 20 cent coin||township slang|
|5 Bob||.50||a 50 cent coin||township slang|
|Boys||2||a R2 coin||township slang|
|Tiger||10||a R10 note||township slang|
|Choc||20||a R20 note||township slang|
|5 Tiger||50||a R50 note||township slang|
|Pinkies||due to the note's colour|
|1 Clip||100||a R100 note||township slang|
|Stene||an amount of R1,000||from the Afrikaans word for brick|
|Grand||an amount of R1,000||United Kingdom|
|Bar||an amount of R1,000,000|
|Meter||1,000,000||an amount of R1,000,000||township slang|
In Sweden money in general is colloquially referred to by the words stålar, deg ("dough") or klöver ("clover") and the English loanword cash. Slang terms for the Swedish krona in use today include spänn and bagis. Riksdaler (referring riksdaler, the former Swedish currency) is still used as a colloquial term for the krona in Sweden. A 20-kronor banknote is sometimes called selma, referring to the portrait of Selma Lagerlöf on the older version of the note.
Ready money (i.e. available cash) has been referred to in the United Kingdom as "dosh" since at least 1953; Brewer equates this term with "paying through the nose", dosh being a Russian-Jewish prefix referring to the nose, that is, paying in cash. The phrase itself "ready money" has also given rise to the far more popular "readies", though there is debate as to whether this is an obvious reference to the immediate availability of the currency or the red and white colour of the British ten shilling Treasury note of 1914. The related term "cash on the nail" is said to refer to 17th century trading stands in Bristol and elsewhere, over which deals were done and cash changed hands. Other general terms for money include "bread" (Cockney rhyming slang 'bread & honey', money. This also became dough, by derivation from the same root), "cabbage", "clam", "milk", "dosh", "dough", "shillings", "frogskins", "notes", "duckets", "loot", "bones", "bar", "coin", "folding stuff", "honk", "lolly", "lucre"/"filthy "Lucre", "moola/moolah", "paper", "scratch", "readies", "spondulicks/spondoolic(k)s/spondulix/spondoolies", and "wonga".
Quid (singular and plural) is used for pound sterling or £, in British slang. It is thought to derive from the Latin phrase "quid pro quo". A pound (£1) may also be referred to as a "nicker" or "nugget" (rarer).
Some other pre-decimalisation United Kingdom coins or denominations became commonly known by colloquial and slang terms, perhaps the most well known being "bob" for a shilling. A farthing was a "mag", a silver threepence was a "joey", and the later nickel-brass threepence was called a "threepenny bit" (//, // or //); a sixpence was a "tanner", the two-shilling coin or florin was a "two-bob bit", the two shillings and sixpence coin or half-crown was a "half dollar" and the crown was a "dollar". Slang terms are not generally used for the decimal coins that replaced them but in some parts of the country, "bob" continues to represent one-twentieth of a pound, that is five new pence, and two bob is 10p. For all denominations "p" is used for pence.
In the United Kingdom the term "shrapnel" may be used for an inconvenient pocketful of loose change because of the association with a shrapnel shell and "wad" or "wedge" for a bundle of banknotes, with "tightwad" a derogatory term for someone who is reluctant to spend money. Similar to " shrapnel" the use of "washers" in Scotland denotes a quantity of low value coinage. Quantities of UK 1p and 2p coins may be referred to as "Copper", 5p, 10p, 20p, and 50p coins as "Silver" and £1 and £2 coins as "Bronze" due to their colour and apparent base metal type. "Brass" is northern English slang for any amount of money.
The one pound note still in circulation in Scotland is occasionally referred to as a "Sheet" and thus the ten shilling note as a "Half Sheet". More commonly the ten shilling note was a "ten bob note" or, in London, "half a bar". "As bent as a nine bob note" is or was common colloquial phrase used to describe something or someone crooked or counterfeit.
In pub culture five and ten pound notes are sometimes called "blue beer tokens" and "brown beer tokens" respectively.
Fairly recent additions are a "Winston" for £5 (from the image of Winston Churchill on the back of the new note introduced in 2016), and "bullseye" for £50 (from the points value of the bullseye on a darts board).
£5 is called a "fiver". A "tenner" is £10. A "Darwin" also refers to a £10 note, due to the image of Charles Darwin on the back. £20 is commonly referred to as a “score”. A "pony" equals £25. A "bullseye" is £50. £100 is commonly referred to as a "ton" e.g. £400 would be called 4 ton. Also, a "century" or a "bill" are also used as £100 (e.g. £300 would be three bills). A "monkey" is £500. £1,000 is commonly referred to as a "bag" (from the rhyming slang "Bag of Sand"), e.g., £4,000 would be called 4 bags. A "oner" (one-er) has referred to various amounts from one shilling to a pound, to now meaning £100 or £1,000, and a "big one" denoting £1,000. A "oncer" referred particularly to a one-pound note, now defunct. It is also fairly common now in the UK to count backwards from these large denominations using the word "down", e.g. £380 might be "four ton, 20 down" in UK slang.
Other rhyming slang expressions for particular quantities of money in the United Kingdom include: "Lady Godiva" for a fiver (£5), or a "Jacks" - Jackson Five (extremely rare) and "diver" for pearl diver (common Glasgow usage). A "Cockle" is £10 - Cock and Hen — ten (also "Ayrton", from Ayrton Senna/Tenner). A "Bobby" is £20 - Bobby Moore (score).
In London financial culture, a billion pounds or, more often, US dollars, is referred to as a 'yard'. This derives from the old British English word for a thousand million, a milliard, which has now been replaced by the 'short scale' name 'billion' from US English. The term 'million' for a million pounds or dollars is often dropped when it is clear from context. E.g. "He made three quid last year" would mean "He earned three million pounds". "They manage a hundred bucks" means that they have assets of a hundred million US dollars.
General terms include bucks, dough, bread, moolah, cheddar, paper, stash, Benjamin, Benji, loot, smackers, and simoleons. Outdated or rarely used terms include: bones, tamales, scratch, cheese, guap, lettuce, salad, scrilla, scrill, chips, cake, ducats, spondulix, and cabbage. The dollar has also been referred to as a "bean" or "bone" (e.g. twenty bones is equal to $20).
U.S. coinage nicknames reflect their value, composition and tradition.
- The “ONE CENT” coin ($0.01 or 1¢) is commonly called a penny due to historical comparison with the British penny. Older U.S. pennies, prior to 1982, are sometimes called “coppers” due to being made of 95% copper. Pennies dated 1909-1958, displaying wheat stalks on the reverse, are sometimes called “wheaties” or “wheat-backs”.
- The “FIVE CENTS” coin ($0.05 or 5¢) is commonly called a nickel due to being made of 25% nickel since 1866.
- The “ONE DIME” coin ($0.10 or 10¢) is worth ten cents and is simply referred to as a dime.
- The “QUARTER DOLLAR” coin ($0.25 or 25¢) is worth twenty-five cents and is commonly called a quarter. A quarter used to be called two-bits (see below), but this is falling out of use.
- The “HALF DOLLAR” coin ($0.50 or 50¢) is worth fifty cents and is commonly called a “fifty-cent piece”.
- Dimes and quarters used to be sometimes collectively referred to as “silver” due to their historic composition of 90% silver prior to 1965.
A bit is an antiquated term equal to one eighth of a dollar or 12 1⁄2 cents, so "two bits" is twenty-five cents (after the Spanish 8-Real "piece of eight" coin on which the U.S. dollar was initially based). Similarly, "four bits" is fifty cents. More rare are "six bits" (75 cents) and "eight bits" meaning a dollar. These are commonly referred to as two-bit, four-bit, six-bit and eight-bit.
U.S. banknote nicknames reflect their values (such as five, twenty, etc.), the subjects depicted on them and their color.
- $1 bill is sometimes called a "single" or a "buck" or rarely an "ace".
- $2 bill is sometimes referred to as a "deuce" or a "Tom".
- $5 bill has been referred to as a "fin," "fiver" or "five-spot".
- $10 bill is a "sawbuck", a "ten-spot", or a "Hamilton".
- $20 bill as a "Jackson", or a "dub", or a "double sawbuck".
- Among horse-race gamblers, the $50 bill is called a "frog" and is considered unlucky.
- $100 bill is occasionally "C-note" (C being the Roman numeral for 100, from the Latin word centum) or "century note"; it can also be referred to as a "Benjamin" (after Benjamin Franklin, who is pictured on the note), or a "yard" (so $300 is "3 yards" and a $50 bill is a "half a yard"). "A rack" is $10,000 in the form of one hundred $100 bills, banded by a bank or otherwise.
- $1000 notes are occasionally referred to as "large" ("twenty large" being $20,000, etc.). In slang, a thousand dollars may also be referred to as a "grand" or "G", "K" (as in kilo), or a "stack". For example, "The repairs to my car cost me a couple grand" or "The repairs to my car cost me a couple [of] stacks".
- $100,000 US dollars is called a "brick".
Banknotes may be collectively referred to as "dead Presidents", although neither Alexander Hamilton ($10) nor Benjamin Franklin ($100) was President. These are also referred to as "wallet-sized portraits of Presidents" – referencing the fact that people typically carry pictures in their wallets.
"Greenback" originally applied specifically to the 19th century Demand Note dollars created by Abraham Lincoln to finance the costs of the American Civil War for the North. The original note was printed in black and green on the back side. It is still used to refer to the U.S. dollar (but not to the dollars of other countries).
Other more general terms for money, not specifically linked to actual banknotes:
- Monetary units larger than 1 dollar are often referred to by the names of their coin counterparts: $5 is a "nickel," $10 is a "dime," and $25 is a "quarter."
- One hundred dollars is known in some circles as a "yard." It can also be called a buck, or a "dollar", but since a buck is also used for one dollar, the context needs to be clear (this continues the pattern of referring to values by the coin counterpart).
- A million dollars is sometimes called a "rock," popularized by several TV shows and movies, most recently The Sopranos: in one episode Tony Soprano states, "So adjusting for inflation I'm looking at half a rock?" In a separate episode Soprano states: "This whole thing is going to cost me close to a rock." Another slang term for a million dollars is an "M", as used in rap songs. Financial institutions and applications will often use "MM" when writing shorthand for a million dollars, as a million is the product of the Roman numeral "M" (1000) times itself. More common usage is a "mill".
- Hirst, David (23 May 2009). "5-cent piece not worth a cracker". The Age. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
- Ryan, Peter (1 September 2016). "New $5 note hits wallets today". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
- Delaney, Brigid (11 September 2013). "Paper or plastic money: Australia shows the world how it's done". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
- Omondi, Dominic. "Survey: Kenya ranked third most corrupt country in the world". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
- "Corruption Perceptions Index 2014: Results". Transparency International. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
- Mbaluto, Julius (23 December 2014). "Kenya: Smiths Found Guilty in Kenyan 'Chicken' Scandal Case". The Star (Kenya). Retrieved 23 February 2016.
SFO [Serious Fraud Office] had charged Smith and Ouzman (S&O), a printing company based in Eastbourne UK, with paying bribes to IEBC and KNEC officials totaling £433,062.98 in order to win business contracts and ensure repeat business.
- "South African slang". Truly South African. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
- "En ny cykel för 8 kronor". August 22, 2012. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
...ny cykel för 8 kronor... för bara åtta riksdaler
- "Wordorigins.org Discussion Forums — Dosh".
- Brewer, 1978, p.1053 "Some, as I know, Have parted with their ready rhino" - The Seaman's Adieu (1670)
- Brewer, 1978, p.875
- Brewer, 1978, p.1029, "If now a person is offered anything on sale, he might say, I have not a quid for your quo, an equivalent in cash."
- "50 Slang Terms for Money". dailywritingtips.com.
- "History of Coins – Two Bits, ..." CoinWeek. CoinWeek LLC. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
- "50 Slang Terms for Money". dailywritingtips.com.
- Brewer, E. Cobham (1978). Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Avenel Books. ISBN 0-517-25921-4.
|Look up dime, greenback, lucre, quid, or readies in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|