Words in the News


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

News this week that the payday loan firm Wonga is in trouble and is not accepting any new loan applications got me thinking about the many words English has for money.

There’s wonga itself, which I was surprised to learn only came into common use in the 1980s, probably from a Romany word ‘wongar’ meaning ‘coal’ but also ‘money’. On reflection, it is perhaps not so surprising that wonga entered popular usage in that brash decade of Greed is good and Loadsamoney.

Informal terms in British English include, among others, dosh, lolly, readies and wedge, while American English has bucks, dinero, green and shekels. Both varieties use bread, dough, loot and moola(h). Some of these are dated, so use with caution.

As you might expect for something that plays such a central role in our lives, money features in numerous idiomatic expressions, far too many to list here. You can find them in the phrases section of the entry for money, along with an interesting piece on the metaphors associated with the term and a list of synonyms. There’s a list of informal terms for units of money here, and a list of expressions for not having enough money here.

To finish with, here’s just one idiom: to be in the money is to suddenly have a lot of it, especially if you have won it or been given it. And here’s Ginger Rogers celebrating just such a situation.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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