Moola, Smackers, and Greenbacks: The Most Interesting Slang for Money

Have you ever tried learning another language? It can be difficult, and some languages are harder than others. In fact, one language many students complain about is English.

Something a lot of people take issue with are the idioms and slang terms. Have you ever thought about how many different slang terms we have for some words in the English language?

One of the worst offenders is money. We have a lot of slang for money, each with its own fascinating origin. We'll talk about some of them in the paragraphs below.

1. Benjamins
This is a reference to Benjamin Franklin, the inventor, patriot, and statesman whose face graces the $100 bill.

2. Buck
This is one of the stranger slang terms for money, since we aren't sure where it comes from. Some claim that it dates back to colonial times, when trapping was a lucrative job.

A deerskin, or buckskin, could net the owner a tidy profit.

Plus, if the barter system still in practice, there was no form of standardized currency. For that reason, people began to measure value based on the amount of buckskins something was worth.

Eventually, buck became a slang term for dollar.

Another theory states that the term has to do with poker games, where a buckhorn knife was given to indicate the dealer in a particular hand. As time went by, people began using other objects for this purpose including a coin worth one dollar.

Still others believe the term began as a reference to a $10, not a single dollar. The Roman numeral X was present on some of them. Many believed the X looked like a sawbuck.

How the word came to mean a $1 dollar bill rather than a $10 bill isn't clear.

3. Cash
Cash is one of the oldest known terms for money. Its origin is technically not English, but Italian.

In the late 16th century, cash was a box or container in which things were kept. One of the most often stored things was money.

The word is closely related to "case," and may also be related to cache.

4. Clams
Clams is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to slang for money. Many cultures have used shells as money, including Native Americans, various peoples of West and Central Africa, India, China, and several other cultures as well.

However, the name is a bit off because clam shells were not often among those used as currency. More often, it was the shells of certain snail species that were valued.

5. Cheddar
The reason money is referred to as cheddar is a strange one. It's a long story, but it all starts with the Great Depression.

One of the programs introduced to get America back on its feet again involved the government buying dairy products from farmers so they didn't go under. The big problem with this became clear about forty years later.

As the Bicentennial came and went, the government soon realized that they had a backlog of well-preserved cheese and no idea how to get rid of it. The solution was to start giving it out to welfare recipients.

Once again, the government started paying farmers, this time to not produce any cheese. That way, they could get rid of their supply of stored cheese over time.
The plan must've worked, because they started shipping out cheese in the early 1980s, and the program ended in the early 1990's. A lot of it did spoil before being given out. After all, we are talking about literal boat-loads of cheese.

How did money become linked to all this? It's hard to say, but most seem to agree that this is the origin.

Since it refers to welfare, it may be best to stay away from this term if the time ever comes to apply for loans.

6. Dough
This one is debated. Some say that it's one of many words for money that was coined by the mob. Given the mob's dealings, they were often all-too-eager to avoid talking about anything that might've seemed suspicious, and money was one of them.

Have you ever wondered why so many of our words for money come from food? It's because food was the subject the mob used for inspiration.

Others claim that dough and bread come from the fact that money is used to buy food, and one of the simplest foods out there is bread made from dough.

7. Simoleons
Simoleons date back to the early 1800s. Some argue that it's a combination of three.

The first word is sixpence, which was a form of currency in the British Empire. The second was the name Napoleon, who named a French coin after himself, and the American dollar.

In recent years, it's also been co-opted as a form of currency used in the videogame series The Sims.

8. Moolah
Nobody can say for sure where this came from, but there are theories out there. Most agree that it came about in the 1930s, and is American in origin.

One theory suggests that the word comes from the bread Matzah, often eaten by Jewish communities during Passover. This theory claims that the name derives from the rectangular shape that most Matzah comes in.

Somehow, this word was mispronounced as moolah, and the name stuck.

Slang for Money and Where It Comes From

English has a lot of slang for money, and we don't know the origins of a lot of it. We've mentioned some of the terms we do know, or at least have theories about, in the paragraphs above.

However, there are plenty more out there, and we encourage you to do more research on your own if you're interested.

If you want to know more about various internet slang and abbreviations, please visit our site.