In every country there are slang terms for money. In this post we share the official and unofficial ways Brits refer to money.
The British population most definitely has an island mentality and this was never more apparent than when the euro was introduced on January 1st 1999. We opted not to join the Europe-wide currency and have stubbornly kept our pounds and pence.
Our currency is officially known as pounds sterling. One pound is subdivided into 100 pence, the singular of which is one penny.
British slang for money
The most commonly used slang term for a pound is a quid and it doesn’t have a plural.
Therefore one quid, five quid, fifty quid.
Ex: I spent over a hundred quid last weekend without even realising it!
Fivers and tenners
If a British friend asks to borrow a fiver from you, he means a five pound note. We also refer to a ten pound note as a tenner.
A grand is used when talking in thousands
Apparently we imported the word grand, which means a thousand, from the States. It’s uncountable, so we’d say:
Ex: My son just bought a new house for three hundred thousand grand.
We use the symbol G when we want to write thousands in shorthand.
Ex: You mean he paid 300G for a house in the suburbs!
We use K (from kilo) when we write with digits but we also say it when speaking, so that phonetically it would sound like kay.
Example in written form: In my new job I’ll be earning 75K a year.
Example in spoken form: In my new job I’ll be earning 75 kay a year.
Other slang expressions for money
As well as quid, we have a whole series of words that we use to refer to money, such as:
Dosh is uncountable, so you can’t have doshes! We say a heap of dosh or heaps of dosh.
Ex: My neighbour has his own business and he’s got heaps of dosh.
We also use the term smackers instead of pounds but rarely in the singular form.
Ex: My aunt left me five hundred smackers in her will.
This expression has negative connotations, so filthy lucre would refer to money that has been illegally acquired.
Ex: Where’s my share of the filthy lucre then?
If you’re in London you may overhear many other terms for money and many of these will come from cockney rhyming slang.
Some of the London slang for money is based on animals thought to have originally appeared on ruppe banknotes. It is believed these terms were imported from India by returning servicemen. You can find out more about that in this wiki post.
Here are a few:
- A pony means £25
- A monkey means £500
- Bangers and mash – cash
- Bread and honey – money
- Pavarotti – he was a famous tenor so a Pavarotti is a tenner (£10)
If you want to read more about cockney rhyming slang and money, read this BBC article.
Other British expressions to do with money
To be quids in
We use this expression a lot. It means to make a profit.
Ex: If I can sell all this stuff second hand then I’ll be quids in.
To spend a penny
If a British person tells you they’re off to spend a penny and then they promptly disappear, it’s because they’re actually going to the toilet. In the old days, you had to pay one penny to use the public toilet and the expression ‘to spend a penny’ has lived on to this day.
Ex: I’ll be back in a minute, I’m just off to spend a penny!
To be a penny-pincher, to penny-pinch
A penny-pincher is someone who is unwilling to spend money.
Ex: I hate going out with John, he’s such a penny-pincher that he never offers to buy everyone a round of drinks at the pub.
To pay an arm and a leg for something
This means that something is incredibly expensive.
Ex: Susan just had a new extension built onto her house, it’s beautiful but it must have cost her an arm and a leg!
How to write about money – with both letters and digits.
- The rules about capital letters and currency are the following: you don’t use a capital letter to spell out the whole name, therefore: pounds, euros and dollars. You do write capitals when you use the internationally recognised abbreviations, therefore GBP for pounds, EUR for euros, USD for dollars and CNY for Chinese yuan etc.
- When writing in English you put the currency symbol in front of the digits, so £10, €150 or $20.
Have you ever overheard some rather strange terms for money? Let us know in the comments below.