Why Is Money Called Dough, Bucks, Quid, Bread, Or Greenback?
Money is called a number of names like moolah, dough, bucks, quid, greenbacks, and even wonga. All from differing sources but with a single meaning. So why is money called dough, bucks, or greenbacks?
This post will try to track down the different sources and backgrounds of the different terms that describe money.
While we cannot guarantee the authenticity of the somewhat lesser-known terms, we will try to trace the origins of the more common terms that are used to describe money.
Why Is Money Called Wonga?
This is an informal British term used to describe money. Like most of the words currently used in British English, we can say where Wonga has its origins. Some sites claim that the word was initially used in the 1980s, while others claim it was used as far back as the 18th and 19th centuries.
What is common in all claims is that Wonga is a Romany word, which actually means "coal". Since coal was a precious commodity in the 1700-1800s, the link to money was formed, and the word coal became slang for money.
Why Is Money Called Moolah?
This is yet another term many people know. It is widespread in UAmerican English and is frequently found in literature written in the 1900s. Authentic sources are not available, but consensus lies with the word emerging in 1905-1920 in the USA.
The word is allegedly sourced from the Fijian language and simply means "money". However, the more established language dictionaries do not support this claim and place its origins as unknown.
Why Is Money Called Dough?
Dough is still very popular and frequently used instead of money and is used much more frequently than wonga or moolah. The source of the word dough as money are related to “bread.” Bread was used in the 1900s to denote money.
There is some logic in the use of bread to mean money. Since we earn money to afford “our daily bread,” which is a common term in the Lord’s Prayer.
Being able to afford the daily bread needed to feed yourself and your dependents means that you have money, and eventually, bread began to mean money in informal usage.
This eventually evolved to include "dough" since you can't make bread without dough! Dough is one of the oldest and most common synonyms for money. The links make sense since we need dough for bread. So whether we use dough or bread or money, all three mean money in both real life and written words.
While there is no official record, dough started being used to mean money somewhere in the middle of the 19th century,
Bread for Money
While it is impossible to track the specific time period in which bread and money became synonyms, bread was the term initially used to mean money. In contrast, dough was used later on (in association with bread).
Early 19th century literature frequently used the phrase “earning ‘ bread” or “earning daily bread.” Eventually, bread and money became linked, and the two words became substitutes.
‘Score’ is a British term popular in the London region. While the words wonga, moolah, and dough refer to money, ‘score’ is much more definite. Score in British slang means that the speaker is talking about the £20 note specifically.
The word originated from agricultural England, where sheep and other livestock being pastured were tallied or ‘scored’ in sets of 20.
Another common term used to mean money in British slang is ‘monkey.’ This is a pricey monkey as the term means the £500 note. With very obscure roots, the term came to be used by English soldiers that served in India.
The Indian currency note had a picture of a monkey on it, and when soldiers returned to England, they continued to refer to the £500 note as a ‘monkey.’
Continuing with the animal theme, for now, the American term ‘buck’ simply means $1 or one dollar.
Unlike many of the other words on this list, the origins of ‘buck’ being used for $1 are very simple.
In the good old days of the wild west, settlers could sell an entire buckskin, which was hunted for its meat and skin, for an entire $1. This made a ‘buckskin’ a commodity of exchange and suitable for bartering with Native Americans for other goods.
This probably dates back to when most of the world was trading in cowries and shells. A clam means a dollar, and a hundred clams mean $100. While there is no logic or link between clams and dollars, the only thing that makes sense is that clamshells were a widespread form of currency in the African, South, and North American continents.
Cheddar or Cheese
While the word cheddar for money is not used much nowadays, many people of an older generation use it and cheese as slang for money.
This use can be traced to the 1960s, when welfare recipients received what was known as ‘government cheese.’
This was a mix of different cheeses blended with leftover milk and emulsifiers. The phrase “got your cheese” meant receiving your welfare funds from the government. This evolved to link money with cheese.
A sawbuck was slang for a sawhorse, which is an X-shaped support for sawing wood. The X means 10 in Roman numerals, and the early ten dollar bills had X printed on a side to show their value.
This X eventually linked up with the sawhorse’s X shape to make sawbuck slang for the ten-dollar bill.
Greenbacks are generic for dollars (since they are always printed with greenbacks). However, during the American Civil War, a lot of money was printed to finance the war. Since this money didn’t have gold and silver backing, it was printed with a greenback to signify that.
Many banks of the time were reluctant to give greenback dollar holders the total value of their money,
British people often refer to their pound as quid. It is so common that few people use the pound in everyday conversation. The source is generally assumed to be rooted in the Latin phrase quid pro quo, which means something for something.
This defines what money is for. The second influence could be the location of the British Mint, which was in Quidhampton, Wiltshire—making it logical to call pounds quids.
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