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british money slang

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Patrick of cash money life found a good post on American money slang and would like to know the origin of the word quid. Here is my non-definitive list of common British English slang terms for money, their meanings and derivations (where possible).

quid = one pound sterling This is the most common form of slang for a pound, and is used in exactly the same context that dollar currencies use ‘buck’. Interestingly the plural of quid is quid as in ‘you owe me five quid’. Probably comes from the Latin ‘quid pro quo’ which means something in exchange for something else and is used in legal transactions. It could also be from a mint that existed in Quidhampton.

squid = quid Modern corruption / diminutive, probably comes from the joke about a shark, a whale and a sick squid.

fiver = five pound note This is pretty self-explanatory, and is used all the time, as in ‘you can give it to me in fivers’

Lady Godiva = fiver Modern rhyming slang

tenner = ten pound note This should also be obvious and is incredibly common, as in ‘I’ll need a tenner to pay for that’

Ayrton Senna = tenner Modern rhyming slang

shrapnel = loose change Usually slightly derogatory and implies that lots of small denomination coins. Comes from military shrapnel, especially in the second world war. As in ‘I don’t have any notes so its all shrapnel’

dosh = a moderate amount of cash Roughly the amount of money that you’d need to spend on a night out. This may come from an African colonial word ‘dash’ which meant a bribe or tip, or the amount of money needed to stay in a doss house or a corruption of dollar and cash. As in ‘have you got enough dosh for this?’

readies = money Just a corruption of the expression ‘ready cash’. As in ‘have you got the readies?’

wad = a large amount of cash Think of a crisp wad of bank notes - could refer to a sum of money from £50 or so up in cash. This was made very popular by the comedian Harry Enfield with his loadsamoney character. As in ‘he was waving around a large wad’.

bob = shilling (in old money), sometimes pound (in new money) This was the slang for shilling (1/12th  1/20th of a pound in old money) but is now occasionally used for a pound as in ‘lend me five bob’ but more commonly as a sum of money, as in ‘he makes a few bob’ meaning he’s got a good income. This dates from at least the 18th century if not earlier, and could be derived from bell-ringing where it is a set of changes rung on bells (shilling could come from a german word meaning ring). Other derivations include the French ‘bas billon’ meaning debased currency or a plumb-bob used to mark a vertical position (like a plumb-line).

nicker = one pound Another form of slang for the pound sterling, the plural of nicker is nicker, as in ‘that cost eight nicker’. Probably comes from the use of nickel in coins.

wonga = money This is a very London word. Suggestions that it might derive from a Romany word ‘wanga’ meaning coal.

brass = money Dates from the sixteenth century, referring to a pile of coins. Most common in Yorkshire.

lolly = money Absolutely no idea where this comes from.

spondoolicks = money Might derive from a type of shell used as currency in ancient Greece (spondulox), spondoolicks (emphasis on the ‘oo’) dates from at least the mid 1800s.

Edited to correct error. There were 20 shillings in a pound not 12.

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57 comments for “british money slang”

  1. Good stuff, Plonkee. :)

    I admit, I lived in England for around 2 years and only heard a few of those (and used even fewer!)

    Posted by Patrick | August 1, 2007, 3:41 am
  2. The OED online says under etymology “of obscure origin”. And provides the following quotations:

    1688 SHADWELL Sqr. Alsatia III. i, Let me equip thee with a Quid. 1791-3 in Spirit Pub. Jrnls. (1799) I. 244 The man..rarely has more than from thirty to fifty quids a year. 1796 Mod. Gulliver 165 The twenty last are worth full forty quid. 1834 H. AINSWORTH Rookwood III. III. xiii. 166 One quid, two coach wheels. 1883 BESANT All in Garden Fair II. x, It isn’t two quid a week that will keep a young gentleman of your powers. 1907 G. B. SHAW Major Barbara II. 241, I ad two quid saved agen the frost; an Ive a pahnd of it left. 1917 A. G. EMPEY Over Top 304 Quid, Tommy’s term for a pound or twenty shillings… He is not on very good terms with this amount as you never see the two together. 1929 W. P. RIDGE Affectionate Regards 71 Milton received only ten quid for the first edition of ‘Paradise Lost’. 1951 People 3 June 2/2 It took less than a couple of quid on the down trip. 1959 I. JEFFERIES Thirteen Days xi. 183 You buy a car, it costs you a thousand quid; but you get a girl like that free. 1968 K. WEATHERLY Roo Shooter 74, I was thinking of moving on a bit but there are still enough here to make a few quid. 1971 Venerabile XXV. III. 191 It is surprising what difficulties the good old English quid can cause. 1977 C. MCCULLOUGH Thorn Birds vii. 160 Do you want to go after Auntie Mary’s thirteen million quid?

    Posted by Monica | August 1, 2007, 6:18 pm
  3. By the way, plonkee, when did the money change?

    Posted by Monica | August 1, 2007, 6:19 pm
  4. OK. I gotta say that for someone living on the this side of the Atlantic, that was amusing, but completely useless info… :-)

    Posted by shadox | August 1, 2007, 11:09 pm
  5. Now I will understand a bit more as I watch BBC America…
    That was fun.

    Posted by ~Dawn | August 2, 2007, 12:01 am
  6. @shadox
    Nothing is ever completely useless.

    The money changed in 1971 from pounds, shillings and pennies to decimalised pounds and pence. There used to be 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pennnies to the shilling. Now there is 100 pence in the pound.

    Posted by plonkee | August 2, 2007, 8:07 am
  7. @Monica & Plonkee

    There is an awesome footnote in the novel “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett where they go through British “old money.” I hesitate to post it in its entirety, but I think it comes under “fair use.”

    “Two farthings = one ha’penny
    Two ha’pennies = one penny
    Three pennies = a thrupenny bit
    Two thrupences = A Sixpence
    Two Sixpences = One Shilling, or Bob
    Two Bob = A Florin
    One Florin and One Sixpence = Half a Crown
    Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note
    Two Ten Bob Notes = One Pound (240 pennies)
    One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea

    The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated.”

    By no means the funniest passage in the book, but as a former English major, it’s one of my favorites. I was forever deciphering passages in old books to figure out that “10d” was ten pennies. It seemed governed by some logic I couldn’t grasp.

    British money is fascinating–American money, merely practical.

    Posted by Katy | August 10, 2007, 3:46 am
  8. @Katy

    I have a lot of old childrens books that I’ve inherited, and it also took me forever to realise that ‘d’ stood for pennies. I think it comes from the Latin ‘denarii’.

    I’d also say that the British are a bit odd, and it doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that we thought decimalisation would be too complicated.

    Posted by plonkee | August 10, 2007, 8:08 am
  9. A couple I heard while working there a few years back:

    a pony = 25 pounds
    a monkey = 500 pounds

    Posted by toddwick | November 3, 2007, 2:40 am
  10. I have always wondered in “Pound Sterling” meant that at one time a British Pound had equal value to a pound of silver

    Posted by RacerX | January 12, 2008, 6:17 am
  11. I’m originally from the Caribbean (so we use money with the Queen’s head on it!!!) and we use the term shilling to this day.

    It actually stands for 25 cents which technically is wrong if you calculate by British units.

    I had to stop saying this when I moved to the US because no one knows what it means. I also had to stop writing ‘cheques’ and start writing ‘checks’ but that is a whole other post.

    Posted by lulugal11 | February 15, 2008, 5:55 pm
  12. A few more I can think of:

    A nugget = £1 coin (because they’re gold coloured presumably?)

    Sovs = £1 (short for soverign)

    A bluey = £5 (they’re blue!)

    A jack = £5 (ryhming slang, Jack’s alive)

    A bullseye = £50 (the bullseye on a dartboard scores 50 points)

    A ton = £100

    A grand = £1,000

    Beer tokens - any amount of notes

    Bread = Money

    Dough = Money

    Moolah = Money

    Spot = number of pounds on a note (e.g. a ten spot)

    I have friends who use all of these, most of whom fall into the ‘wheeler-dealer’ category.

    Posted by Barry | March 9, 2008, 4:45 pm
  13. I’m interested in knowing when the abreviation “p” for “new pence” came into common usage in Britain. When I was first there in 1971 (just a few months after decimalization occurred), I don’t remember hearing it, but on subsequent visits I hear it all the time. Can anyone tell me approximately when this usage appeared?

    Thanks a lot.


    Posted by Philip | October 17, 2008, 2:53 am
  14. Some random money bits from a UK immigrant of a few years and counting:

    The conversion between old money and new is that a shilling became five new pence (5p).

    Oddly, some professionals still bill clients in guineas, so their invoices end up with some peculiar looking very un-round numbers.

    I got very excited while watching an episode of Only Fools and Horses (see wikipedia if you don’t know what I mean) when Delboy commented he was giving Rodney three pounds, while pulling out a wad of notes and counting out three of them. That sent me running to the internet to see when the pound coin was introduced, as I’ve never seen a pound note. Yes, getting excited about this qualifies me as a nerd.

    The theme for Only Fools and Horses uses the term pony (and the whole programme is a wheeler-dealer context). “Slip a pony in me pocket. I’ll get the suitcase from the van.”

    Posted by Jill | March 10, 2009, 12:22 am
  15. Oh, after I had a conversation with a street vendor from whom I bought some fruit, a visiting American who was with me asked, “What did he say?” I thought back and realised what the confusion was. “He said two pounds weight,” I explained, “Pounds weight to distinguish it from pounds money.”

    Food is usually sold in grams or kilograms, but supermarkets often list unit prices for meat both per kilogram and per pound (weight). It’s analogous to the way temperature is usually described in centigrade but several little things have told me that there is a strong residual preference for Fahrenheit, things like the BBC offering both options and hearing people use the Fahrenheit temperatures from time to time.

    Posted by Jill | March 10, 2009, 12:28 am
  16. And don’t forget…
    ‘wedged’ (flush with money)and have you got any ‘wedge’ (cash on you) and ‘minted’(same as above)

    I’m sure there are more regional variations if you went around the UK

    Posted by Mike | September 30, 2009, 9:36 pm
  17. I’ve never heard the term “bob” used instead of “a pound” its always been used for 5p unless your talking about multiples i.e “five bob,ten bob and so on” so 25p and 50p… and so on in 25p multiples.

    Posted by Pete | January 24, 2010, 8:55 pm
  18. @Philip: The abbreviation “p” for “new penny (pence)” was the recommendation of the Decimalisation Board in 1971. They said there were three possible, rational choices for the abbreviation for the new unit. The choices were “nd”, “np” or “p”. Of these they felt “p” was the best choice because the “n” of “nd” or “np” would probably have fallen out of use within a few years as the new currency became familiar.

    Truth is, it still isn’t familiar. I can still do arithmetic in my head with old money. This new rubbish isn’t a patch on it.

    Posted by Ken Johnson | February 24, 2010, 10:43 pm
  19. Usually said as cash, dough,green, bucks, moolah, and dinero as well but ace isn’t normally for a lot of money unless you are playing the game poker.

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  20. I think it’s pretty great. It was a contest… there are bunch on YouTube.

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  21. Some good stuff here.. I do see a lot of these slangs being used by websites all over.. like quickquid and wonga

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  26. The old Lady Godiva. Have a few in my ’sky rocket’.

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  27. Never heard of these before fiver = five pound note This is pretty self-explanatory, and is used all the time, as in ‘you can give it to me in fivers’

    Lady Godiva = fiver Modern rhyming slang

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  29. Gotta luv tha wonga.

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  30. With all those slangs you listed some people could have been talking about money near me and I wouldn’t have any idea what they are talking about. There are some terms I never heard of. It is interesting to see how people can invent so many words for one thing.

    Posted by john | August 5, 2010, 10:27 am
  31. in cockney rhyming slang what was a joey in money terms

    Posted by mary | September 7, 2010, 4:27 pm
  32. LOLLL so weird

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  34. lol british slang is the best in the world! watch eastenders for more hehe

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  36. British do have their own slangs and I find it fascinating. Mot people mimicked their styles. Just so it makes them very popular.

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  37. British do have their own slangs and I find it fascinating.

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  39. Although they are a world of their own and sometimes a bit hard to be around but I love them. My ex lived near Ilford and from Stratford till Barking was nothing but Cockney area.

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  40. good stuff, remember using all these words back in school, infact it was some guy from my school that came up with the word squid and have been using it since.

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  41. As a slang for British I would say this is a “bloody good post”. I am truly amazed by their styles on having the words spoken in slang. They lead the world on it.

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