Tag Archives: money phrases

Money talk


Kander & Ebb devoted a number to it in their musical Cabaret; ABBA sang about it a decade later. It’s what rappers rap about, it makes the world go around, it talks, but it can’t buy you love, according to The Beatles. This thing that motivates, defines, enables or ruins us, that we’ll beg, borrow or steal, and even kill for, comes in many guises — and I’m not talking about diamonds and gold. There are probably more slang words, nicknames, colloquialisms, euphemisms and expressions for and about money than for anything else we talk about — with the exception, perhaps, of sex (and maybe drinking). Money even worms its way into sayings that having nothing to do with moolah or dough.

Here’s some lolly lingo; please add any more to the comments section below. (And see this BBC America post for some money talk differences between Brits and Americans.)

Slang for money:

General names of money:
moolah (or moola)
dosh (British, possibly from “doss-house”)
bread (Cockney rhyming slang: bread and honey = money)
dough (as bread, above)
cheese, cheddar (or chedda)
bacon (as in “bring home the bacon”)
brass (northern English)
smackers (American)

Quid (probably from the Latin phrase “quid pro quo”), nicker (pound)

Thatcher (modern one-pound coin)

Buck (dollar); also acebean (as in bean counter), boffo (abbreviation of box office, ie. takings at theater), bone, bulletcase, clamcoconut,  fish,  frogskin, lizard, peso, yellowback, C or century note

Singles (one-dollar bills)

Benjamin (one-hundred dollar bill, which has Benjamin Franklin pictured on it)

Cabbage, lettuce, kale, greenbacks, folding green or long green (paper money, bills)

Fins (five-dollar bills)

Fiver (five-pound or -dollar note/bill); also Lady Godiva in cockney rhyming slang (rhymes with fiver)

Tenner (ten-pound or -dollar note/bill)

Double / dub (twenty-dollar bill)

Score (twenty-pound note)

A grand (a thousand pounds or dollars); also K, or big one (mainly for dollars), or a stack

rock (a million dollars)

plastic (credit cards)

a few coppers / loose change (coins)

bob (the old British shilling)

petty cash (small amount of money set aside for small purchases)

pin money / pocket money / allowance (a small amount or ration of money given regularly to women or children)

slush fund (money set aside for bribery or influence)

money for old rope (easily earned or obtained money, suggesting that something worthless has been sold; might date back to public hangings in England)

sourdough (counterfeit money)

rhino (British; ready or available money, cash)

This web site lists the slang and informal names of Australian banknotes and coins.

Meaning rich:
cashed up
rolling in it
stinking rich
filthy rich
quids in
on easy street
made of money
minted (British)

Meaning poor:
skint (British)
a bit short
cleaned out
on the breadline
without a penny to one’s name
without two pennies to rub together

Meaning reluctant to spend money:
tight, tight-fisted

Meaning expensive:
[it costs]
… an arm and a leg
… a (small) fortune
…a pretty penny

Meaning inexpensive/good value for money:
Cheap at half the price (even though it literally translates as the opposite)
Cheap at twice the price (that’s more like it)

Meaning worthless:
not worth a plugged nickel
money for old rope

Money-hued phrases:
Paying through the nose (see rhino above; paying too much for something)
Beggars can’t be choosers (if you’re poor you can’t be fussy)
From rags to riches (going from poor to wealthy)
Cash on the nail (available money, cash)
Dollars to doughnuts (certain or sure; being willing to bet dollars against worthless doughnuts suggests total confidence that you’re right)
A fool and his money are soon parted
Money makes the world go around
Money can’t buy you happiness
Here’s my two cents (one’s thoughts and input on a particular subject)
Spending money like water (spending too much money)
It can turn on a dime
Another day, another dollar (another routine and slightly boring day)
To grease someone’s palm (to bribe or influence with money)
He who pays the piper calls the tune / Money talks (those with money can influence or make decisions)
All that glitters is not gold (things that look precious or valuable aren’t necessarily so)
Bet your bottom dollar (bet confidently – ie. your last money)
A bigger bang for your buck (more value for money)
As nice as ninepence (tidy, neat, well-organized)
As queer as a nine-bob note (explained in an earlier Glossophilia post on the word queer)
Fool’s gold (any apparent treasure that turns out to be worthless)
a whip round (collection of money to spend on a joint purchase)
to take the king’s/queen’s shilling (British: to enlist in the military; to take payment and then be obliged to do something)

Penny phrases:

Pennywise, pound foolish (make false economies)
In for a penny, in for a pound (fully committed to something)
A penny for your thoughts (ask what someone is thinking about)
A penny saved is a penny earned
[it cost] a pretty penny (expensive)
Without a penny to my name (broke)
Without two pennies to rub together (broke)
the penny drops (suddenly something makes sense)
spend a penny (British: to urinate; originates from public toilets in England that charged a penny)
ten a penny (cheap, or plentiful)
penny-pinching (miserly)
tupenny ha’penny: (British: cheap, not good value)
fourpenny one: (British: violent punch or blow)