An Illustrated Tour of Slang Terms for Money

The English language is rich in slang expressions for money, and often these terms tell us something interesting about the nation using them. With this in mind, the team at Art Money and Go Compare has created a series of artworks made out of actual money to illustrate their favourite slang words. From “wonga” to “boodle”, take a look and see how many you know.

1. Buck (US) 


Slang for one US dollar

The expression originates from 18th Century pioneer-era America, when deer (or “buck”) skins were used as currency. To this day, “buck” remains one of the most commonly used terms in the USA for money.

For ex: “I can’t believe I spent ten bucks on that terrible movie.” 

2. Quid (UK)


Slang for one British pound

Theories abound as to where the term “quid” came from, but a popular theory is that it derived from the Latin quid pro quo, meaning “something for something”.

For ex: “I don’t suppose you could lend me a couple of quid? I’ll pay you back tomorrow.

3. Wonga (UK)


British slang for money

“Wonga” is a modification of the British Romani word for coal, “wongar”. Interestingly enough, “coal” itself was a slang phrase for money in the 18th and 19th centuries.

For ex: “If you move to London, I’m sure you’ll earn a lot more wonga than you do in Leeds.”

4. Monkey (London via India)


London slang for £500

Though familiar to many Londoners, the term “monkey” is actually Indian slang for a 500 rupee note, which used to have a monkey on it. When the British Empire occupied India in the 19th century, some Indian slang words made it over to the UK, with “monkey” being one of them.

For ex: “I earned a monkey for a day’s work last Sunday.”  

5. Brass (Northern England)


Northern English slang for money

This term comes from the northern English phrase: “Where there’s muck, there’s brass”. In the working class towns of the 19th century, many people made a living from gathering and selling scrap metal – and eventually “brass” became a shorthand for money.

Although a northern English term, all Brits will understand the expression, “More brass than brains”, which means “More money than sense”.

For ex: “My friend, despite not knowing a thing about restaurants, has just bought one! He’s mad, he’s got more brass than brains!”

6. Cheese (US)


US slang term for money

“Cheese” has its roots in the American welfare system, where after the Second World War claimants would receive a block of cheese in their benefits package. More recently, the term has evolved and now many Americans refer to cash as “cheddar”.

For ex: “I lost my job. I need to find somewhere new to get my cheese.”

7. Boodle (UK / US)


Slang term for ill-gotten gains

“Boodle” was originally used to refer to criminal profits and counterfeit banknotes but can now be used to describe all forms of money. It is thought to have originated from the Dutch word for property, “boedel”.

For ex: “We saved a boodle by buying a house away from the city centre.”

A common expression to describe someone with lots of money, would be to team “boodle” up with “oodles” meaning, loads.

For ex: “Oh, she’s got oodles of boodle that girl!”

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tour.

Image source:

About the Author: In addition to our regular posts, written by members of our team at English Trackers, we also encourage those who have something to say about language and are interested in penning a guest post for our blog to get in touch with us.

This  post is by Matt Lindley a blogger and content creator based in London. In no particular oder, he loves language, music and art.

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