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British cottage

Money Slang

With dictionary look up. Double click on any word for its definition.

This section is in advanced English and is only intended to be a guide, not to be taken too seriously!

Slang money words, meanings and origins

While the origins of these slang terms are many and various, certainly a lot of English money slang is rooted in various London communities, which for different reasons liked to use language only known in their own circles, notably wholesale markets, street traders, crime and the underworld, the docks, taxi-cab driving, and the immigrant communities. London has for centuries been extremely cosmopolitan, both as a travel hub and a place for foreign people to live and work and start their own busineses. This contributed to the development of some 'lingua franca' expressions, i.e., mixtures of Italian, Greek, Arabic, Yiddish (Jewish European/Hebrew dialect), Spanish and English which developed to enable understanding between people of different nationalities, rather like a pidgin or hybrid English. Certain lingua franca blended with 'parlyaree' or 'polari', which is basically underworld slang.

Backslang also contributes several slang money words. Backslang reverses the phonetic (sound of the) word, not the spelling, which can produce some strange interpretations, and was popular among market traders, butchers and greengrocers.

Here are the most common and/or interesting British slang money words and expressions, with meanings, and origins where known. Many are now obsolete; typically words which relate to pre-decimalisation coins, although some have re-emerged and continue to do so.

Some non-slang words are included where their origins are particularly interesting, as are some interesting slang money expressions which originated in other parts of the world, and which are now entering the English language.

A to Z of Money Slang

archer = two thousand pounds (£2,000), late 20th century, from the Jeffrey Archer court case in which he was alleged to have bribed call-girl Monica Coughlan with this amount.

ayrton senna/ayrton = tenner (ten pounds, £10) - cockney rhyming slang created in the 1980s or early 90s, from the name of the peerless Brazilian world champion Formula One racing driver, Ayrton Senna (1960-94), who won world titles in 1988, 90 and 91, before his tragic death at San Marino in 1994.

bag/bag of sand = grand = one thousand pounds (£1,000), seemingly recent cockney rhyming slang, in use from around the mid-1990s in Greater London; perhaps more widely too.

bar = a pound, from the late 1800s, and earlier a sovereign, probably from Romany gypsy 'bauro' meaning heavy or big, and also influenced by allusion to the iron bars use as trading currency used with Africans, plus a possible reference to the custom of casting of precious metal in bars.

bender = sixpence (6d) Another slang term with origins in the 1800s when the coins were actually solid silver, from the practice of testing authenticity by biting and bending the coin, which would being made of near-pure silver have been softer than the fakes.

beer tokens = money. Usually now meaning one pound coins. From the late 20th century. Alternatively beer vouchers, which commonly meant pound notes, prior to their withdrawal.

beehive = five pounds (£5). Cockney rhyming slang from 1960s and perhaps earlier since beehive has meant the number five in rhyming slang since at least the 1920s.

bees (bees and honey) = money. Cockney rhyming slang from the late 1800s. Also shortened to beesum (from bees and, bees 'n', to beesum).

bice/byce = two shillings (2/-) or two pounds or twenty pounds - probably from the French bis, meaning twice, which suggests usage is older than the 1900s first recorded and referenced by dictionary sources. Bice could also occur in conjunction with other shilling slang, where the word bice assumes the meaning 'two', as in 'a bice of deaners', pronounced 'bicerdeaners', and with other money slang, for example bice of tenners, pronounced 'bicertenners', meaning twenty pounds.

big ben - ten pounds (£10) the sum, and a ten pound note - cockney rhyming slang.

biscuit = £100 or £1,000. Initially suggested (Mar 2007) by a reader who tells me that the slang term 'biscuit', meaning £100, has been in use for several years, notably in the casino trade (thanks E). I am grateful also (thanks Paul, Apr 2007) for a further suggestion that 'biscuit' means £1,000 in the casino trade, which apparently is due to the larger size of the £1,000 chip. It would seem that the 'biscuit' slang term is still evolving and might mean different things (£100 or £1,000) to different people. I can find no other references to meanings or origins for the money term 'biscuit'.

bob = shilling (1/-), although in recent times now means a pound or a dollar in certain regions. Historically bob was slang for a British shilling (Twelve old pence, pre-decimalisation - and twenty shillings to a pound). No plural version; it was 'thirty bob' not 'thirty bobs'. Prior to 1971 bob was one of the most commonly used English slang words. Now sadly gone in the UK for this particular meaning, although lots of other meanings remain (for example the verb or noun meaning of pooh, a haircut, and the verb meaning of cheat). Usage of bob for shilling dates back to the late 1700s. Origin is not known for sure. Possibilities include a connection with the church or bell-ringing since 'bob' meant a set of changes rung on the bells. This would be consistent with one of the possible origins and associations of the root of the word Shilling, (from Proto-Germanic 'skell' meaning to sound or ring). There is possibly an association with plumb-bob, being another symbolic piece of metal, made of lead and used to mark a vertical position in certain trades, notably masons. Brewer's 1870 Dictionary of Phrase and Fable states that 'bob' could be derived from 'Bawbee', which was 16-19th century slang for a half-penny, in turn derived from: French 'bas billon', meaning debased copper money (coins were commonly cut to make change). Brewer also references the Laird of Sillabawby, a 16th century mintmaster, as a possible origin. Also perhaps a connection with a plumb-bob, made of lead and used to mark a vertical position in certain trades, notably masons. 'Bob a nob', in the early 1800s meant 'a shilling a head', when estimating costs of meals, etc. In the 18th century 'bobstick' was a shillings-worth of gin. In parts of the US 'bob' was used for the US dollar coin. I am also informed (thanks K Inglott, March 2007) that bob is now slang for a pound in his part of the world (Bath, South-West England), and has also been used as money slang, presumably for Australian dollars, on the Home and Away TV soap series. A popular slang word like bob arguably develops a life of its own. Additionally (ack Martin Symington, Jun 2007) the word 'bob' is still commonly used among the white community of Tanzania in East Africa for the Tanzanian Shilling.

boodle = money. There are many different interpretations of boodle meaning money, in the UK and the US. Boodle normally referred to ill-gotten gains, such as counterfeit notes or the proceeds of a robbery, and also to a roll of banknotes, although in recent times the usage has extended to all sorts of money, usually in fairly large amounts. Much variation in meaning is found in the US. The origins of boodle meaning money are (according to Cassells) probably from the Dutch word 'boedel' for personal effects or property (a person's worth) and/or from the old Scottish 'bodle' coin, worth two Scottish pence and one-sixth of an English penny, which logically would have been pre-decimalisation currency.

bottle = two pounds, or earlier tuppence (2d), from the cockney rhyming slang: bottle of spruce = deuce (= two pounds or tuppence). Spruce probably mainly refers to spruce beer, made from the shoots of spruce fir trees which is made in alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties. Separately bottle means money generally and particularly loose coinage, from the custom of passing a bottle for people to give money to a busker or street entertainer. I am also informed (ack Sue Batch, Nov 2007) that spruce also referred to lemonade, which is perhaps another source of the bottle rhyming slang: "... around Northants, particularly the Rushden area, Spruce is in fact lemonade... it has died out nowadays - I was brought up in the 50s and 60s and it was an everyday word around my area back then. As kids growing up we always asked for a glass of spruce. It was quite an accepted name for lemonade..."

brass = money. From the 16th century, and a popular expression the north of England, e.g., 'where there's muck there's brass' which incidentally alluded to certain trades involving scrap, mess or waste which offered high earnings. This was also a defensive or retaliatory remark aimed at those of middle, higher or profesional classes who might look down on certain 'working class' entrepreneurs or traders. The 'where there's much there's brass' expression helped maintain and spread the populairity iof the 'brass' money slang, rather than cause it. Brass originated as slang for money by association to the colour of gold coins, and the value of brass as a scrap metal.

bread (bread and honey) = money. From cockney rhyming slang, bread and honey = money, and which gave rise to the secondary rhyming slang 'poppy', from poppy red = bread. Bread also has associations with money, which in a metaphorical sense can be traced back to the Bible. Bread meaning money is also linked with with the expression 'earning a crust', which alludes to having enough money to pay for one's daily bread.

brown = a half-penny or ha'penny. An old term, probably more common in London than elsewhere, used before UK decimalisation in 1971, and before the ha'penny was withdrawn in the 1960s.

bunce = money, usually unexpected gain and extra to an agreed or predicted payment, typically not realised by the payer. Earlier English spelling was bunts or bunse, dating from the late 1700s or early 1800s (Cassells and Partridge). Origins are not certain. Bunts also used to refer to unwanted or unaccounted-for goods sold for a crafty gain by workers, and activity typically hidden from the business owner. Suggestions of origin include a supposed cockney rhyming slang shortening of bunsen burner (= earner), which is very appealing, but unlikely given the history of the word and spelling, notably that the slang money meaning pre-dated the invention of the bunsen burner, which was devised around 1857. (Thanks R Bambridge)

bung = money in the form of a bribe, from the early English meaning of pocket and purse, and pick-pocket, according to Cassells derived from Frisian (North Netherlands) pung, meaning purse. Bung is also a verb, meaning to bribe someone by giving cash.

cabbage = money in banknotes, 'folding' money - orginally US slang according to Cassells, from the 1900s, also used in the UK, logically arising because of the leaf allusion, and green was a common colour of dollar notes and pound notes (thanks R Maguire, who remembers the slang from Glasgow in 1970s).

carpet = three pounds (£3) or three hundred pounds (£300), or sometimes thirty pounds (£30). This has confusing and convoluted origins, from as early as the late 1800s: It seems originally to have been a slang term for a three month prison sentence, based on the following: that 'carpet bag' was cockney rhyming slang for a 'drag', which was generally used to describe a three month sentence; also that in the prison workshops it supposedly took ninety days to produce a certain regulation-size piece of carpet; and there is also a belief that prisoners used to be awarded the luxury of a piece of carpet for their cell after three year's incarceration. The term has since the early 1900s been used by bookmakers and horse-racing, where carpet refers to odds of three-to-one, and in car dealing, where it refers to an amount of £300.

caser/case = five shillings (5/-), a crown coin. Seems to have surfaced first as caser in Australia in the mid-1800s from the Yiddish (Jewish European/Hebrew dialect) kesef meaning silver, where (in Australia) it also meant a five year prison term. Caser was slang also for a US dollar coin, and the US/Autralian slang logically transferred to English, either or all because of the reference to silver coin, dollar slang for a crown, or the comparable value, as was.

chip = a shilling (1/-) and earlier, mid-late 1800s a pound or a sovereign. According to Cassells chip meaning a shilling is from horse-racing and betting. Chip was also slang for an Indian rupee. The association with a gambling chip is logical. Chip and chipping also have more general associations with money and particularly money-related crime, where the derivations become blurred with other underworld meanings of chip relating to sex and women (perhaps from the French 'chipie' meaning a vivacious woman) and narcotics (in which chip refers to diluting or skimming from a consignment, as in chipping off a small piece - of the drug or the profit). Chipping-in also means to contributing towards or paying towards something, which again relates to the gambling chip use and metaphor, i.e. putting chips into the centre of the table being necessary to continue playing.

chump change = a relatively insiginificant amount of money - a recent expression (seemingly 2000s) originating in the US and now apparently entering UK usage. (Thanks M Johnson, Jan 2008)

clod = a penny (1d). Clod was also used for other old copper coins. From cockney rhyming slang clodhopper (= copper). A clod is a lump of earth. A clodhopper is old slang for a farmer or bumpkin or lout, and was also a derogatory term used by the cavalry for infantry foot soldiers.

coal = a penny (1d). Also referred to money generally, from the late 1600s, when the slang was based simply on a metaphor of coal being an essential commodity for life. The spelling cole was also used. Common use of the coal/cole slang largely ceased by the 1800s although it continued in the expressions 'tip the cole' and 'post the cole', meaning to make a payment, until these too fell out of popular use by the 1900s. It is therefore unlikely that anyone today will use or recall this particular slang, but if the question arises you'll know the answer. Intriguingly I've been informed (thanks P Burns, 8 Dec 2008) that the slang 'coal', seemingly referring to money - although I've seen a suggestion of it being a euphemism for coke (cocaine) - appears in the lyrics of the song Oxford Comma by the band Vampire weekend: "Why would you lie about how much coal you have? Why would you lie about something dumb like that?..."

cock and hen = ten pounds (thanks N Shipperley). The ten pound meaning of cock and hen is 20th century rhyming slang. Cock and hen - also cockerel and hen - has carried the rhyming slang meaning for the number ten for longer. Its transfer to ten pounds logically grew more popular through the inflationary 1900s as the ten pound amount and banknote became more common currency in people's wages and wallets, and therefore language. Cock and hen also gave raise to the variations cockeren, cockeren and hen, hen, and the natural rhyming slang short version, cock - all meaning ten pounds.

cockeren - ten pounds, see cock and hen.

commodore = fifteen pounds (£15). The origin is almost certainly London, and the clever and amusing derivation reflects the wit of Londoners: Cockney rhyming slang for five pounds is a 'lady', (from Lady Godiva = fiver); fifteen pounds is three-times five pounds (3x£5=£15); 'Three Times a Lady' is a song recorded by the group The Commodores; and there you have it: Three Times a Lady = fifteen pounds = a commodore. (Thanks Simon Ladd, Jun 2007)

coppers = pre-decimal farthings, ha'pennies and pennies, and to a lesser extent 1p and 2p coins since decimalisation, and also meaning a very small amount of money. Coppers was very popular slang pre-decimalisation (1971), and is still used in referring to modern pennies and two-penny coins, typically describing the copper (coloured) coins in one's pocket or change, or piggy bank. Pre-decimal farthings, ha'pennies and pennies were 97% copper (technically bronze), and would nowadays be worth significantly more than their old face value because copper has become so much more valuable. Decimal 1p and 2p coins were also 97% copper (technically bronze - 97% copper, 2.5% zinc, 0.5% tin ) until replaced by copper-plated steel in 1992, which amusingly made them magnetic. The term coppers is also slang for a very small amount of money, or a cost of something typically less than a pound, usually referring to a bargain or a sum not worth thinking about, somewhat like saying 'peanuts' or 'a row of beans'. For example: "What did you pay for that?" ...... "Coppers."

cows = a pound, 1930s, from the rhyming slang 'cow's licker' = nicker (nicker means a pound). The word cows means a single pound since technically the word is cow's, from cow's licker.

daddler/dadla/dadler = threepenny bit (3d), and also earlier a farthing (quarter of an old penny, ¼d), from the early 1900s, based on association with the word tiddler, meaning something very small.

deaner/dena/denar/dener = a shilling (1/-), from the mid-1800s, derived from association with the many European dinar coins and similar, and derived in turn and associated with the Roman denarius coin which formed the basis of many European currencies and their names. The pronunciation emphasis tends to be on the long second syllable 'aah' sound. The expression is interpreted into Australian and New Zealand money slang as deener, again meaning shilling.

deep sea diver = fiver (£5), heard in use Oxfordshire (thanks Karen/Ewan) late 1990s, this is rhyming slang dating from the 1940s.

deuce = two pounds, and much earlier (from the 1600s) tuppence (two old pence, 2d), from the French deus and Latin duos meaning two (which also give us the deuce term in tennis, meaning two points needed to win).

dibs/dibbs = money. Dib was also US slang meaning $1 (one dollar), which presumably extended to more than one when pluralised. Origins of dib/dibs/dibbs are uncertain but probably relate to the old (early 1800s) children's game of dibs or dibstones played with the knuckle-bones of sheep or pebbles. Also relates to (but not necessairly derived from) the expression especially used by children, 'dibs' meaning a share or claim of something, and dibbing or dipping among a group of children, to determine shares or winnings or who would be 'it' for a subsequent chasing game. In this sort of dipping or dibbing, a dipping rhyme would be spoken, coinciding with the pointing or touchung of players in turn, eliminating the child on the final word, for example:

  • 'dip dip sky blue who's it not you' (the word 'you' meant elimination for the corresponding child)
  • 'ibble-obble black bobble ibble obble out' ('out' meant elimination)
  • 'one potato two potato three potato four
    five potato six potato seven potato more' ('more' meant elimination)
    (In this final dipping/dibbing game the procedure was effectively doubled because the spoken rhythm matched the touching of each contestant's two outstretched fists in turn with the fist of the 'dipper' - who incidentally included him/herself in the dipping by touching their own fists together twice, or if one of their own fists was eliminated would touch their chin. The winner or 'it' would be the person remaining with the last untouched fist. Players would put their fists behind their backs when touched, and interstingly I can remember that as children we would conform to the rules so diligently that our fists would remain tightly clenched behind our backs until the dipping game had finished. I guess this wouldn't happen today because each child would need at least one hand free for holding their mobile phone and texting.)

dinarly/dinarla/dinaly = a shilling (1/-), from the mid-1800s, also transferred later to the decimal equivalent 5p piece, from the same roots that produced the 'deaner' shilling slang and variations, i.e., Roman denarius and then through other European dinar coins and variations. As with deanar the pronunciation emphasis tends to be on the long second syllable 'aah' sound.

dollar = slang for money, commonly used in singular form, eg., 'Got any dollar?..'. In earlier times a dollar was slang for an English Crown, five shillings (5/-). From the 1900s in England and so called because the coin was similar in appearance and size to the American dollar coin, and at one time similar in value too. Brewer's dictionary of 1870 says that the American dollar is '..in English money a little more than four shillings..'. That's about 20p. The word dollar is originally derived from German 'Thaler', and earlier from Low German 'dahler', meaning a valley (from which we also got the word 'dale'). The connection with coinage is that the Counts of Schlick in the late 1400s mined silver from 'Joachim's Thal' (Joachim's Valley), from which was minted the silver ounce coins called Joachim's Thalers, which became standard coinage in that region of what would now be Germany. All later generic versions of the coins were called 'Thalers'. An 'oxford' was cockney rhyming slang for five shillings (5/-) based on the dollar rhyming slang: 'oxford scholar'.

dosh = slang for a reasonable amount of spending money, for instance enough for a 'night-out'. Almost certainly and logically derived from the slang 'doss-house', meaning a very cheap hostel or room, from Elizabethan England when 'doss' was a straw bed, from 'dossel' meaning bundle of straw, in turn from the French 'dossier' meaning bundle. Dosh appears to have originated in this form in the US in the 19th century, and then re-emerged in more popular use in the UK in the mid-20th century.

doubloons = money. From the Spanish gold coins of the same name.

dough = money. From the cockney rhyming slang and metaphoric use of 'bread'.

dunop/doonup = pound, backslang from the mid-1800s, in which the slang is created from a reversal of the word sound, rather than the spelling, hence the loose correlation to the source word.

farthing = a quarter of an old penny (¼d) - not slang, a proper word in use (in slightly different form - feorthung) since the end of the first millenium, and in this list mainly to clarify that the origin of the word is not from 'four things', supposedly and commonly believed from the times when coins were split to make pieces of smaller value, but actually (less excitingly) from Old English feortha, meaning fourth, corresponding to Old Frisian fiardeng, meaning a quarter of a mark, and similar Germanic words meaning four and fourth. The modern form of farthing was first recorded in English around 1280 when it altered from ferthing to farthing.

fiver = five pounds (£5), from the mid-1800s. More rarely from the early-mid 1900s fiver could also mean five thousand pounds, but arguably it remains today the most widely used slang term for five pounds.

fin/finn/finny/finnif/finnip/finnup/finnio/finnif = five pounds (£5), from the early 1800s. There are other spelling variations based on the same theme, all derived from the German and Yiddish (European/Hebrew mixture) funf, meaning five, more precisely spelled fünf. A 'double-finnif' (or double-fin, etc) means ten pounds; 'half-a-fin' (half-a-finnip, etc) would have been two pounds ten shillings (equal to £2.50).

flag = five pound note (£5), UK, notably in Manchester (ack Michael Hicks); also a USA one dollar bill; also used as a slang term for a money note in Australia although Cassells is vague about the value (if you know please contact us). The word flag has been used since the 1500s as a slang expression for various types of money, and more recently for certain notes. Originally (16th-19thC) the slang word flag was used for an English fourpenny groat coin, derived possibly from Middle Low German word 'Vleger' meaning a coin worth 'more than a Bremer groat' (Cassells). Derivation in the USA would likely also have been influenced by the slang expression 'Jewish Flag' or 'Jews Flag' for a $1 bill, from early 20th century, being an envious derogatory reference to perceived and stereotypical Jewish success in business and finance.

flim/flimsy = five pounds (£5), early 1900s, so called because of the thin and flimsy paper on which five pound notes of the time were printed.

florin/flo = a two shilling or 'two bob' coin (florin is actually not slang - it's from Latin meaning flower, and a 14th century Florentine coin called the Floren). Equivalent to 10p - a tenth of a pound. A 'flo' is the slang shortening, meaning two shillings.

folding/folding stuff/folding money/folding green = banknotes, especially to differentiate or emphasise an amount of money as would be impractical to carry or pay in coins, typically for a night out or to settle a bill. Folding, folding stuff and folding money are all popular slang in London. Folding green is more American than UK slang. Cassells says these were first recorded in the 1930s, and suggests they all originated in the US, which might be true given that banknotes arguably entered very wide use earlier in the US than in the UK. (Thanks P Jones, June 2008)

foont/funt = a pound (£1), from the mid-1900s, derived from the German word 'pfund' for the UK pound.

french/french loaf = four pounds, most likely from the second half of the 1900s, cockney rhyming slang for rofe (french loaf = rofe), which is backslang for four, also meaning four pounds. Easy when you know how..

g/G = a thousand pounds. Shortening of 'grand' (see below). From the 1920s, and popular slang in fast-moving business, trading, the underworld, etc., until the 1970s when it was largely replaced by 'K'. Usually retains singular form (G rather than G's) for more than one thousand pounds, for example "Twenty G".

garden/garden gate = eight pounds (£8), cockney rhyming slang for eight, naturally extended to eight pounds. In spoken use 'a garden' is eight pounds. Incidentally garden gate is also rhyming slang for magistrate, and the plural garden gates is rhyming slang for rates. The word garden features strongly in London, in famous place names such as Hatton Garden, the diamond quarter in the central City of London, and Covent Garden, the site of the old vegetable market in West London, and also the term appears in sexual euphemisms, such as 'sitting in the garden with the gate unlocked', which refers to a careless pregnancy.

gelt/gelter = money, from the late 1600s, with roots in foreign words for gold, notably German and Yiddish (Jewish European/Hebrew dialect) gelt, and Dutch and South African geld.

gen = a shilling (1/-), from the mid 1800s, either based on the word argent, meaning silver (from French and Latin, and used in English heraldry, i.e., coats of arms and shields, to refer to the colour silver), or more likely a shortening of 'generalize', a peculiar supposed backslang of shilling, which in its own right was certainly slang for shilling, and strangely also the verb to lend a shilling.

generalise/generalize = a shilling (1/-), from the mid 1800s, thought to be backslang. Also meant to lend a shilling, apparently used by the middle classes, presumably to avoid embarrassment. Given that backslang is based on phonetic word sound not spelling, the conversion of shilling to generalize is just about understandable, if somewhat tenuous, and in the absence of other explanation is the only known possible derivation of this odd slang.

gen net/net gen = ten shillings (1/-), backslang from the 1800s (from 'ten gen').

grand = a thousand pounds (£1,000 or $1,000) Not pluralised in full form. Shortened to 'G' (usually plural form also) or less commonly 'G's'. Originated in the USA in the 1920s, logically an association with the literal meaning - full or large.

greens = money, usually old-style green coloured pound notes, but actully applying to all money or cash-earnings since the slang derives from the cockney rhyming slang: 'greengages' (= wages).

groat = an old silver four-penny coin from around 1300 and in use in similar form until c.1662, although Brewer states in his late 1800s revised edition of his 1870 dictionary of slang that 'the modern groat was introduced in 1835, and withdrawn in 1887', which is somewhat confusing. Presumably there were different versions and issues of the groat coin, which seems to have been present in the coinage from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Very occasionally older people, students of English or History, etc., refer to loose change of a small amount of coin money as groats. Sadly the word is almost obsolete now, although the groat coin is kept alive in Maundy Money. The word derives from Middle English and Middle Dutch 'groot' meaning 'great' since this coin was a big one, compared to a penny. The similar German and Austrian coin was the 'Groschen', equivalent to 10 'Pfennigs'. The word can actually be traced back to Roman times, when a 'Denarius Grossus' was a 'thick penny' (equivalent).

guinea = guinea is not a slang term, it's a proper and historical word for an amount of money equating to twenty-one shillings, or in modern sterling one pound five pence.

half, half a bar/half a sheet/half a nicker = ten shillings (10/-), from the 1900s, and to a lesser degree after decimalisation, fifty pence (50p), based on the earlier meanings of bar and sheet for a pound. Half is also used as a logical prefix for many slang words which mean a pound, to form a slang expresion for ten shillings and more recently fifty pence (50p), for example and most popularly, 'half a nicker', 'half a quid', etc. The use of the word 'half' alone to mean 50p seemingly never gaught on, unless anyone can confirm otherwise.

half a crown = two shillings and sixpence (2/6), and more specifically the 2/6 coin. Not actually slang, more an informal and extremely common pre-decimalisation term used as readily as 'two-and-six' in referring to that amount. Equivalent to 12½p in decimal money.

handbag = money, late 20th century.

handful = five pounds (£5), 20th century, derived simply by association to the five digits on a hand.

hog = confusingly a shilling (1/-) or a sixpence (6d) or a half-crown (2/6), dating back to the 1600s in relation to shilling. Hog also extended to US 10c and dollar coins, apparently, according to Cassells because coins carried a picture of a pig. I suspect different reasons for the British coins, but have yet to find them.

jack = a pound, and earlier (from the 1600s), a farthing. Perhaps based on jack meaning a small thing, although there are many possible different sources. Jack is much used in a wide variety of slang expressions.

jacks = five pounds, from cockney rhyming slang: jack's alive = five. Not used in the singular for in this sense, for example a five pound note would be called a 'jacks'.

job = guinea, late 1600s, probably ultimately derived from from the earlier meaning of the word job, a lump or piece (from 14th century English gobbe), which developed into the work-related meaning of job, and thereby came to have general meaning of payment for work, including specific meaning of a guinea. 'Half a job' was half a guinea.

joey = much debate about this: According to my information (1894 Brewer, and the modern Cassell's, Oxford, Morton, and various other sources) Joey was originally, from 1835 or 1836 a silver fourpenny piece called a groat (Brewer is firm about this), and this meaning subsequently transferred to the silver threepenny piece (Cassell's, Oxford, and Morton). I'm convinced these were the principal and most common usages of the Joey coin slang. Cassell's says Joey was also used for the brass-nickel threepenny bit, which was introduced in 1937, although as a child in South London the 1960s I cannot remember the threepenny bit ever being called a Joey, and neither can my Mum or Dad, who both say a Joey in London was a silver threepence and nothing else (although they'd be too young to remember groats...). I'm informed however (ack Stuart Taylor, Dec 2006) that Joey was indeed slang for the brass-nickel threepenny bit among children of the Worcester area in the period up to decimalisation in 1971, so as ever, slang is subject to regional variation. I personally feel (and think I recall) there was some transference of the Joey slang to the sixpence (tanner) some time after the silver threepenny coin changed to the brass threepenny bit (which was during the 1930-40s), and this would have been understandable because the silver sixpence was similar to the silver threepence, albeit slightly larger. There is also a view that Joey transferred from the threepenny bit to the sixpence when the latter became a more usual minimum fare in London taxi-cabs. So although the fourpenny groat and the silver threepenny coin arguably lay the major claim to the Joey title, usage also seems to have extended to later coins, notably the silver sixpence (tanner) and the brass-nickel threepenny bit. The Joey slang word seems reasonably certainly to have been named after the politician Joseph Hume (1777-1855), who advocated successfully that the fourpenny groat be reintroduced, which it was in 1835 or 1836, chiefly to foil London cab drivers (horse driven ones in those days) in their practice of pretending not to have change, with the intention of extorting a bigger tip, particularly when given two shillings for a two-mile fare, which at the time cost one shilling and eight-pence. The re-introduction of the groat thus enabled many customers to pay the exact fare, and so the cab drivers used the term Joey as a derisory reference for the fourpenny groats.

And some further clarification and background:

  • Brewer says that the 'modern groat was introduced in 1835, and withdrawn in 1887'. He was referring to the fact that the groat's production ceased from 1662 and then restarted in 1835, (or 1836 according to other sources). This coincides with the view that Hume re-introduced the groat to counter the cab drivers' scam.
  • Silver threepenny coins were first introduced in the mid-1500s but were not popular nor minted in any serious quantity for general circulation until around 1760, because people preferred the fourpenny groat. The silver threepence was effectively replaced with introduction of the brass-nickel threepenny bit in 1937, through to 1945, which was the last minting of the silver threepence coin. The silver threepence continued in circulation for several years after this, and I read here of someone receiving one in their change as late as 1959.
  • The brass-nickel threepenny bit was minted up until 1970 and this lovely coin ceased to be legal tender at decimalisation in 1971. As a matter of interest, at the time of writing this (Nov 2004) a mint condition 1937 threepenny bit is being offered for sale by London Bloomsbury coin dealers and auctioneers Spink, with a guide price of £37,000. Wow.
  • The silver sixpence was produced from 1547-1970, and remained in circulation (although by then it was a copper-based and nickel-coated coin) after decimalisation as the two-and-a-half-pee, until withdrawal in 1980.
  • I was sent this additional clarification about the silver threepenny piece (thanks C Mancini, Dec 2007) provided by Joseph Payne, Assistant Curator of the Royal Mint: "... Along with the silver crown, half-crown and sixpence, the silver threepence made its first appearance in 1551 during the reign of Edward VI (1547-53). Silver threepences were last issued for circulation in the United Kingdom in 1941 but the final pieces to be sent overseas for colonial use were dated 1944. Once the issue of silver threepences in the United Kingdom had ceased there was a tendency for the coins to be hoarded and comparatively few were ever returned to the Royal Mint. The coin was not formally demonetised until 31 August 1971 at the time of decimalisation."

k/K = a thousand (£1,000 or $1,000). From the 1960s, becoming widely used in the 1970s. Plural uses singular form. 'K' has now mainly replaced 'G' in common speech and especially among middle and professional classes. While some etymology sources suggest that 'k' (obviously pronounced 'kay') is from business-speak and underworld language derived from the K abbreviation of kilograms, kilometres, I am inclined to prefer the derivation (suggested to me by Terry Davies) that K instead originates from computer-speak in the early 1970s, from the abbreviation of kilobytes. For Terry's detailed and fascinating explanation of the history of K see the ' K' entry on the cliches and words origins page.

kibosh/kybosh = eighteen pence (i.e., one and six, 1/6, one shilling and sixpence), related to and perhaps derived from the mid-1900s meaning of kibosh for an eighteen month prison sentence. Cassells implies an interesting possible combination of the meanings kibosh (18 month sentence), kibosh (meaning ruin or destroy) - both probably derived from Yiddish (Jewish European/Hebrew dialect) words meaning suppress - with the linking of money and hitting something, as in 'a fourpenny one' (from rhyming slang fourpenny bit = hit). All very vague and confusing. Whatever, kibosh meant a shilling and sixpence (1/6). Like so much slang, kibosh trips off the tongue easily and amusingly, which would encourage the extension of its use from prison term to money.

kick = sixpence (6d), from the early 1700s, derived purely from the lose rhyming with six (not cockney rhyming slang), extending to and possible preceded and prompted by the slang expression 'two and a kick' meaning half a crown, i.e., two shillings and sixpence, commonly expressed as 'two and six', which is a more understandable association.

knicker = distortion of 'nicker', meaning £1. See entry under 'nicker'. See also 'pair of knickers'.

lady/Lady Godiva = fiver (five pounds, £5) cockney rhyming slang, and like many others in this listing is popular in London and the South East of England, especially East London. (Thanks Simon Ladd, June 2007)

lolly = money. More popular in the 1960s than today. Precise origin unknown. Possibly rhyming slang linking lollipop to copper.

long-tailed 'un/long-tailed finnip = high value note, from the 1800s and in use to the late 1900s. Earlier 'long-tailed finnip' meant more specifically ten pounds, since a finnip was five pounds (see fin/finny/finnip) from Yiddish funf meaning five. There seems no explanation for long-tailed other than being a reference to extended or larger value.

macaroni = twenty-five pounds (£25). Cockney rhyming slang for pony.

madza caroon = half-a-crown (2/6) from the mid 1800s. A combination of medza, a corruption of Italian mezzo meaning half, and a mispronunciation or interpretation of crown. Madza caroon is an example of 'ligua franca' slang which in this context means langauge used or influenced by foreigners or immigrants, like a sort of pidgin or hybrid English-foreign slang, in this case mixed with Italian, which logically implies that much of the early usage was in the English Italian communities. Mezzo/madza was and is potentially confused with, and popularity supported by, the similar 'motsa' (see motsa entry).

madza poona = half-sovereign, from the mid 1800s, for the same reasons as madza caroon.

maggie/brass maggie = a pound coin (£1) - apparently used in South Yorkshire UK - the story is that the slang was adopted during the extremely acrimonious and prolonged miners' strike of 1984 which coincided with the introduction of the pound coin. Margaret Thatcher acted firmly and ruthlessly in resisting the efforts of the miners and the unions to save the pit jobs and the British coalmining industry, reinforcing her reputation for exercising the full powers of the state, creating resentment among many. When the pound coin appeared it was immediately christened a 'Maggie', based seemingly on the notion that it was '...a brassy piece that thinks it's a sovereign..." (ack J Jamieson, Sep 2007) If you have more detail about where and when this slang arose and is used, please let me know. I am grateful to J Briggs for confirming (March 2008): "...I live in Penistone, South Yorks (what we call the West Riding) and it was certainly called a 'Brass Maggie' in my area. Typically in a derisive way, such as 'I wouldn't give you a brass maggie for that' for something overpriced but low value. It never really caught on and has died out now..."

marygold/marigold = a million pounds (£1,000,000). English slang referenced by Brewer in 1870, origin unclear, possibly related to the Virgin Mary, and a style of church windows featuring her image.

McGarrett = fifty pounds (£50). Initially London slang, especially for a fifty pound note. McGarret refers cunningly and amusingly to the popular US TV crime series Hawaii Five-0 and its fictional head detective Steve McGarrett, played by Jack Lord. The series was made and aired originally between 1968 and 1980 and developed a lasting cult following, not least due to the very cool appeal of the McGarrett character. Steve McGarrett was given the legendary line (every week virtually) "Book 'em Danno," - or "Book him Danno," - depending on the number of baddies they caught. Danno (Detective Danny Williams, played by James MacArthur) was McGarrett's unfailingly loyal junior partner. For the record, the other detectives were called Chin Ho Kelly (the old guy) and Kono Kalakaua (the big guy), played by Kam Fong and Zulu, both of which seem far better character names, but that's really the way it was. (Thanks L Cunliffe)

medza/medzer/medzes/medzies/metzes/midzers = money. Other variations occur, including the misunderstanding of these to be 'measures', which has become slang for money in its own right. These slang words for money are most likely derived from the older use of the word madza, absorbed into English from Italian mezzo meaning half, which was used as a prefix in referring to half-units of coinage (and weights), notably medza caroon (half-crown), madza poona (half-sovereign) and by itself, medza meaning a ha'penny (½d). Potentially confused with and supported by the origins and use of similar motsa (see motsa entry).

measures = money, late 20th century, most likely arising from misunderstanding medzas and similar variants, particularly medza caroon (hal-crown) and medza meaning a half-penny (ha'penny, i.e., ½d).

mill = a million dollars or a million pounds. Interestingly mill is also a non-slang technical term for a tenth of a USA cent, or one-thousandth of a dollar, which is an accounts term only - there is no coinage for such an amount. The word mill is derived simply from the Latin 'millisimus' meaning a thousandth, and is not anything to do with the milled edge of a coin.

monkey = five hundred pounds (£500). Probably London slang from the early 1800s. Origin unknown. Like the 'pony' meaning £25, it is suggested by some that the association derives from Indian rupee banknotes featuring the animal.

moola = money. Variations on the same theme are moolah, mola, mulla. Modern slang from London, apparently originating in the USA in the 1930s. Probably related to 'motsa' below.

motsa/motsah/motzer = money. Popular Australian slang for money, now being adopted elsewhere. Variations on the same theme are motser, motzer, motza, all from the Yiddish (Jewish European/Hebrew dialect) word 'matzah', the unleavened bread originally shaped like a large flat disk, but now more commonly square (for easier packaging and shipping), eaten at Passover, which suggests earliest origins could have been where Jewish communities connected with English speakers, eg., New York or London (thanks G Kahl). Popularity is supported (and probably confused also) with 'lingua franca' medza/madza and the many variations around these, which probably originated from a different source, namely the Italian mezzo, meaning half (as in madza poona = half sovereign).

ned = a guinea. A slang word used in Britain and chiefly London from around 1750-1850. Ned was seemingly not pluralised when referring to a number of guineas, eg., 'It'll cost you ten ned..' A half-ned was half a guinea. The slang ned appears in at least one of Bruce Alexander's Blind Justice series of books (thanks P Bostock for raising this) set in London's Covent Garden area and a period of George III's reign from around 1760 onwards. It is conceivable that the use also later transferred for a while to a soverign and a pound, being similar currency units, although I'm not aware of specific evidence of this. The ned slang word certainly transferred to America, around 1850, and apparently was used up to the 1920s. In the US a ned was a ten dollar gold coin, and a half-ned was a five dollar coin. Precise origin of the word ned is uncertain although it is connected indirectly (by Chambers and Cassells for example) with a straightforward rhyming slang for the word head (conventional ockney rhyming slang is slightly more complex than this), which seems plausible given that the monarch's head appeared on guinea coins. Ned was traditionally used as a generic name for a man around these times, as evidenced by its meaning extending to a thuggish man or youth, or a petty criminal (US), and also a reference (mainly in the US) to the devil, (old Ned, raising merry Ned, etc). These, and the rhyming head connection, are not factual origins of how ned became a slang money term; they are merely suggestions of possible usage origin and/or reinforcement.

net gen = ten shillings (10/-), backslang, see gen net.

nevis/neves = seven pounds (£7), 20th century backslang, and earlier, 1800s (usually as 'nevis gens') seven shillings (7/-).

nicker = a pound (£1). Not pluralised for a number of pounds, eg., 'It cost me twenty nicker..' From the early 1900s, London slang, precise origin unknown. Possibly connected to the use of nickel in the minting of coins, and to the American slang use of nickel to mean a $5 dollar note, which at the late 1800s was valued not far from a pound. In the US a nickel is more commonly a five cent coin. A nicker bit is a one pound coin, and London cockney rhyming slang uses the expression 'nicker bits' to describe a case of diarrhoea.

nugget/nuggets = a pound coin (£1) or money generally. The older nuggets meaning of money obviously alludes to gold nuggets and appeared first in the 1800s. Much more recently (thanks G Hudson) logically since the pound coin was introduced in the UK in the 1990s with the pound note's withdrawal, nugget seems to have appeared as a specific term for a pound coin, presumably because the pound coin is golden (actually more brassy than gold) and 'nuggety' in feel.

oner = (pronounced 'wunner'), commonly now meaning one hundred pounds; sometimes one thousand pounds, depending on context. In the 1800s a oner was normally a shilling, and in the early 1900s a oner was one pound.

oncer = (pronounced 'wunser'), a pound , and a simple variation of 'oner'. From the early 1900s, and like many of these slang words popular among Londoners (ack K Collard) from whom such terms spread notably via City traders and also the armed forces during the 2nd World War.

oxford = five shillings (5/-), also called a crown, from cockney rhyming slang oxford scholar = dollar, dollar being slang for a crown.

pair of nickers/pair of knickers/pair o'nickers = two pounds (£2), an irresistible pun.

plum = One hundred thousand pounds (£100,000). As referenced by Brewer in 1870. Seemingly no longer used. Origin unknown, although I received an interesting suggestion (thanks Giles Simmons, March 2007) of a possible connection with Jack Horner's plum in the nursery rhyme. The Jack Horner nursery rhyme is seemingly based on the story of Jack Horner, a steward to the Bishop of Glastonbury at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries (16th century), who was sent to Henry VIII with a bribe consisting of the deeds to twelve important properties in the area. Horner, so the story goes, believing the bribe to be a waste of time, kept for himself the best (the 'plum') of these properties, Mells Manor (near Mells, Frome, Somerset), in which apparently Horner's descendents still lived until quite recently. The Bishop was not so fortunate - he was hung drawn and quartered for remaining loyal to the Pope.

pony = twenty-five pounds (£25). From the late 18th century according to most sources, London slang, but the precise origin is not known. Also expressed in cockney rhying slang as 'macaroni'. It is suggested by some that the pony slang for £25 derives from the typical price paid for a small horse, but in those times £25 would have been an unusually high price for a pony. Others have suggested that an Indian twenty-five rupee banknote featured a pony. Another suggestion (Ack P Bessell) is that pony might derive from the Latin words 'legem pone', which (according to the etymology source emtymonline.com) means, "........ 'payment of money, cash down,' [which interpretation apparently first appeared in] 1573, from first two words [and also the subtitle] of the fifth division of Psalm cxix [Psalm 119, verses 33 to 48, from the Bible's Old Testament], which begins the psalms at Matins on the 25th of the month; consequently associated with March 25, a quarter day in the old financial calendar, when payments and debts came due...." The words 'Legem pone' do not translate literally into monetary meaning, in the Psalm they words actully seem to equate to 'Teach me..' which is the corresponding phrase in the King James edition of the Bible. Other suggestions connecting the word pony with money include the Old German word 'poniren' meaning to pay, and a strange expression from the early 1800s, "There's no touching her, even for a poney [sic]," which apparently referred to a widow, Mrs Robinson, both of which appear in a collection of 'answers to correspondents' sent by readers and published by the Daily Mail in the 1990s.

poppy = money. Cockney rhyming slang, from 'poppy red' = bread, in turn from 'bread and honey' = money.

quarter = five shillings (5/-) from the 1800s, meaning a quarter of a pound. More recently (1900s) the slang 'a quarter' has transfered to twenty-five pounds.

quid = one pound (£1) or a number of pounds sterling. Plural uses singular form, eg., 'Fifteen quid is all I want for it..', or 'I won five hundred quid on the horses yesterday..'. The slang money expression 'quid' seems first to have appeared in late 1600s England, derived from Latin (quid meaning 'what', as in 'quid pro quo' - 'something for something else'). Other intriguing possible origins/influences include a suggested connection with the highly secretive Quidhampton banknote paper-mill, and the term quid as applied (ack D Murray) to chewing tobacco, which are explained in more detail under quid in the cliches, words and slang page.

readies = money, usually banknotes. Simply derived from the expression 'ready cash'.

saucepan = a pound, late 1800s, cockney rhyming slang: saucepan lid = quid.

score = twenty pounds (£20). From the 1900s, simply from the word 'score' meaning twenty, derived apparently from the ancient practice of counting sheep in lots of twenty, and keeping tally by cutting ('scoring') notches into a stick.

shekels/sheckles = money. Not always, but often refers to money in coins, and can also refer to riches or wealth. From the Hebrew word and Israeli monetary unit 'shekel' derived in Hebrew from the silver coin 'sekel' in turn from the word for weight 'sakal'.

seymour = salary of £100,000 a year - media industry slang - named after Geoff Seymour (1947-2009) the advertising copywriter said to have been the first in his profession to command such a wage. Seymour created the classic 1973 Hovis TV advert featuring the baker's boy delivering bread from a bike on an old cobbled hill in a North England town, to the theme of Dvorak's New World symphony played by a brass band. The actual setting was in fact Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset. Incidentally the Hovis bakery was founded in 1886 and the Hovis name derives from Latin, Hominis Vis, meaning 'strength of man'. The 1973 advert's artistic director was Ridley Scott.

shilling = a silver or silver coloured coin worth twelve pre-decimalisation pennies (12d). From Old High German 'skilling'. Similar words for coins and meanings are found all over Europe. The original derivation was either from Proto-Germanic 'skell' meaning to sound or ring, or Indo-European 'skell' split or divide. Some think the root might be from Proto-Germanic 'skeld', meaning shield.

shrapnel = loose change, especially a heavy and inconvenient pocketful, as when someone repays a small loan in lots of coins. The expression came into use with this meaning when wartime sensitivities subsided around 1960-70s. Shrapnel conventionally means artillery shell fragments, so called from the 2nd World War, after the inventor of the original shrapnel shell, Henry Shrapnel, who devised a shell filled with pellets and explosive powder c.1806.

sick squid = six pounds (£6), from the late 20th century joke - see squid.

silver = silver coloured coins, typically a handful or piggy-bankful of different ones - i.e., a mixture of 5p, 10p, 20p and 50p. Commonly used in speech as 'some silver' or 'any silver', for example: "Have you got any silver for the car-park?" or What tip shall we leave?" ... "Some silver will do." In fact 'silver' coins are now made of cupro-nickel 75% copper, 25% nickel (the 20p being 84% and 16% for some reason). The slang term 'silver' in relation to monetary value has changed through time, since silver coins used to be far more valuable. In fact arguably the modern term 'silver' equates in value to 'coppers' of a couple of generations ago. Silver featured strongly in the earliest history of British money, so it's pleasing that the word still occurs in modern money slang. Interestingly also, pre-decimal coins (e.g., shillings, florins, sixpences) were minted in virtually solid silver up until 1920, when they were reduced to a still impressive 50% silver content. The modern 75% copper 25% nickel composition was introduced in 1947. Changes in coin composition necessarily have to stay ahead of economic attractions offered by the scrap metal trade. It is therefore only a matter of time before modern 'silver' copper-based coins have to be made of less valuable metals, upon which provided they remain silver coloured I expect only the scrap metal dealers will notice the difference.

simon = sixpence (6d). The sixpenny piece used to be known long ago as a 'simon', possibly (ack L Bamford) through reference to the 17th century engraver at the Royal Mint, Thomas Simon. There has been speculation among etymologists that 'simon' meaning sixpence derives from an old play on words which represented biblical text that St Peter "...lodged with Simon a tanner.." as a description of a banking transaction, although Partridge's esteemed dictionary refutes this, at the same time conceding that the slang 'tanner' for sixpence might have developed or been reinforced by the old joke. See 'tanner' below.

sir isaac = one pound (£1) - used in Hampshire (Southern England) apparently originating from the time when the one pound note carried a picture of Sir Isaac Newton. (Thanks M Ty-Wharton).

sky/sky diver = five pounds (£5), 20th century cockney rhyming slang.

smackers/smackeroos = pounds (or dollars) - in recent times not usually used in referring to a single £1 or a low amount, instead usually a hundred or several hundreds, but probably not several thousands, when grand would be preferred. Smackers (1920s) and smackeroos (1940s) are probably US extensions of the earlier English slang smack/smacks (1800s) meaning a pound note/notes, which Cassells slang dictionary suggests might be derived from the notion of smacking notes down onto a table.

sobs = pounds. Mispronunciation of sovs, short for sovereigns. An example of erroneous language becoming real actual language through common use. (Thanks to R Maguire for raising this one.)

sovs = pounds. Short for sovereigns - very old gold and the original one pound coins. For example 'Lend us twenty sovs..' Sov is not generally used in the singular for one pound. Mispronounced by some as 'sobs'.

spondulicks/spondoolicks = money. Pronunciation emphasises the long 'doo' sound. Various other spellings, e.g., spondulacks, spondulics. Normally refers to notes and a reasonable amount of spending money. The spondulicks slang can be traced back to the mid-1800s in England (source: Cassells), but is almost certainly much older. Spondoolicks is possibly from Greek, according to Cassells - from spondulox, a type of shell used for early money. Cassells also suggests possible connection with 'spondylo-' referring to spine or vertebrae, based on the similarity between a stack of coins and a spine, which is referenced in etymologist Michael Quinion's corespondence with a Doug Wilson, which cites the reference to piled coins (and thereby perhaps the link to sponylo/spine) thus: "Spondulics - coin piled for counting..." from the 1867 book A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools, by John Mitchell Bonnell. (Thanks R Maguire for prompting more detail for this one.)

sprazi/sprazzy = sixpence (6d). A variation of sprat, see below.

sprat/spratt = sixpence (6d). From the 1800s, by association with the small fish.

squid = a pound (£1). Not normally pluralised, still expressed as 'squid', not squids, e.g., 'Fifty squid'. The most likely origin of this slang expression is from the joke (circa 1960-70s) about a shark who meets his friend the whale one day, and says, "I'm glad I bumped into you - here's that sick squid I owe you.."

stiver/stuiver/stuyver = an old penny (1d). Stiver also earlier referred to any low value coin. Stiver was used in English slang from the mid 1700s through to the 1900s, and was derived from the Dutch Stiver coin issued by the East India Company in the Cape (of South Africa), which was the lowest East India Co monetary unit. There were twenty Stivers to the East India Co florin or gulden, which was then equal to just over an English old penny (1d). (source Cassells)

strike = a sovereign (early 1700s) and later, a pound, based on the coin minting process which is called 'striking' a coin, so called because of the stamping process used in making coins.

tanner = sixpence (6d). The slang word 'tanner' meaning sixpence dates from the early 1800s and is derived most probably from Romany gypsy 'tawno' meaning small one, and Italian 'danaro' meaning small change. The 'tanner' slang was later reinforced (Ack L Bamford) via jocular reference to a biblical extract about St Peter lodging with Simon, a tanner (of hides). The biblical text (from Acts chapter 10 verse 6) is: "He (Peter) lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side..", which was construed by jokers as banking transaction instead of a reference to overnight accommodation. Nick Ratnieks suggests the tanner was named after a Master of the Mint of that name. A further suggestion (ack S Kopec) refers to sixpence being connected with pricing in the leather trade. An obscure point of nostalgic trivia about the tanner is apparently (thanks J Veitch) a rhyme, from around the mid-1900s, sung to the tune of Rule Britannia: "Rule Brittania, two tanners make a bob, three make eighteen pence and four two bob…" My limited research suggests this rhyme was not from London.

tenner - ten pounds (£10).

ten bob bit = fifty pence piece (50p). A rare example of money slang from more recent times, even though it draws from the pre-decimal slang, since the term refers to ten shillings (equivalent to 50p) and alludes to the angular shape of the old theepenny bit.

thick'un/thick one = a crown (5/-) or a sovereign, from the mid 1800s.

three ha'pence/three haypence = 1½d (one and a half old pennies) - this lovely expression (thanks Dean) did not survive decimalisation, despite there being new decimal half-pence coins. In fact the term was obsolete before 1971 decimalisation when the old ha'penny (½d) was removed from the currency in 1969.

tickey/ticky/tickie/tiki/tikki/tikkie = ticky or tickey was an old pre-decimal British silver threepenny piece (3d, equating loosely to 1¼p). The tickey slang was in use in 1950s UK (in Birmingham for example, thanks M Bramich), although the slang is more popular in South Africa, from which the British usage seems derived. In South Africa the various spellings refer to a SA threepenny piece, and now the equivalent SA post-decimalisation 2½ cents coin. South African tickey and variations - also meaning 'small' - are first recorded in the 19th century from uncertain roots (according to Partridge and Cassells) - take your pick: African distorted interpretation of 'ticket' or 'threepenny'; from Romany tikeno and tikno (meaning small); from Dutch stukje (meaning a little bit); from Hindustani taka (a stamped silver coin); and/or from early Portuguese 'pataca' and French 'patac' (meaning what?.. Partridge doesn't say).

tom/tom mix = six pounds (£6), 20th century cockney rhyming slang, (Tom Mix = six). Tom Mix was a famous cowboy film star from 1910-1940. Tom Mix initially meant the number six (and also fix, as in difficult situation or state of affairs), and extended later in the 1900s to mean six pounds.

ton = commonly one hundred pounds (£100). Not generally pluralised. From the fact that a ton is a measurement of 100 cubic feet of capacity (for storage, loading, etc). In the same way a ton is also slang for 100 runs in cricket, or a speed of 100 miles per hour. Logically 'half a ton' is slang for £50.

tony benn - ten pounds (£10), or a ten pound note - cockney rhyming slang derived from the Labour MP and government minister Anthony Wedgwood Benn, popularly known as Tony Benn. Tony Benn (born 1925) served in the Wilson and Callaghan governments of the 1960s and 70s, and as an MP from 1950-2001, after which he remains (at time of writing this, Feb 2008) a hugely significant figure in socialist ideals and politics, and a very wise and impressive man.

tosheroon/tusheroon/tosh/tush/tusseroon = half-a-crown (2/6) from the mid-1900s, and rarely also slang for a crown (5/-), most likely based in some way on madza caroon ('lingua franca' from mezzo crown), perhaps because of the rhyming, or some lost cockney rhyming rationale.

tray/trey = three pounds, and earlier threpence (thruppeny bit, 3d), ultimately from the Latin tres meaning three, and especially from the use of tray and trey for the number three in cards and dice games.

two and a kick = half a crown (2/6), from the early 1700s, based on the basic (not cockney) rhyming with 'two and six'.

wad = money. Usually meaning a large amount of spending money held by a person when out enjoying themselves. London slang from the 1980s, derived simply from the allusion to a thick wad of banknotes. Popularity of this slang word was increased by comedian Harry Enfield.

wedge = nowadays 'a wedge' a pay-packet amount of money, although the expression is apparently from a very long time ago when coins were actually cut into wedge-shaped pieces to create smaller money units.

wonga = money. Less common variations on the same theme: wamba, wanga, or womba. Modern London slang. Probably from Romany gypsy 'wanga' meaning coal. The large Australian 'wonga' pigeon is almost certainly unrelated...

yennep/yenep/yennap/yennop = a penny (1d particularly, although also means a decimal penny, 1p). Yennep is backslang. Backslang evolved for similar reasons as cockney rhyming slang, i.e., to enable private or secret conversation among a particular community, which in the case of backslang is generally thought initially to have been street and market traders, notably butchers and greengrocers. Backslang essentially entails reversing the sound of the word, not the strict spelling, as you can see from the yennep example. Yennep backslang seems first to have appeared along with the general use of backslang in certain communities in the 1800s.

yennaps/yennups = money. Originated in the 1800s from the backslang for penny. See yennep.

Reprinted with permission from Business Balls.

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English Vocabulary

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