Money, money, money… it’s a rich man’s world!
That famous song by ABBA was playing on the radio just now, which has given me a brilliant idea for today’s post.
Why don’t we review some basic money vocabulary in Spanish and learn some of the favorite slang that different Spanish speaking countries have invented for that word?
And from my previous posts about Spanish love proverbs, funny idiomatic expressions, and slang words for “girl,” we can say that the native speakers of this language are incredibly creative, aren’t they?
Most common Spanish Slang Words for Money Around the World
As you move from Spain to Latin America, you’ll immediately see some changes in the way people pronounce, conjugate verbs, or the vocabulary they use. Yet, as you start roaming around the South American continent, you’ll quickly notice that each of them speaks its own version of Spanish.
Even though the standard word for money: “🇪🇸 el dinero,” is widely understood, local slang has developed everywhere.
- 🇪🇸 plata – which literally means “silver” is a safe word, which will be readily understood among all native speakers, no matter their nationality
- 🇦🇷 chirola, mosca, cobre – are terms used in Argentina for small change
- 🇨🇱 luca / luquita- in Chilean Spanish, it means “a thousand pesos” (worth around 1.5 USD)
- 🇨🇱 gamba – a slang word used in Chile for a hundred peso coin
- 🇧🇴 guita, guitarra, quivo – are words you can hear in Bolivia instead of “dinero.”
- 🇨🇴 🇲🇽 🇭🇳 biyuyo / billullo – that funny-sounding slang name is commonly used in Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, and most of the Caribbean.
- 🇪🇸 guita, jurdel, parné, pasta, pela, perra – Spaniards like to have many options to choose from
- 🇪🇸 billete – literally a bill/ a banknote is a common substitute for the word dinero in case of larger amounts.
- 🇨🇴 barras, marmaja – is how they call money in Colombia
- 🇨🇺 astilla, baro, cañas, pasta – you might have heard them on your last trip to Cuba
- 🇵🇪 lana– literally “wool” is how they call money in Peru
- 🇦🇷 🇵🇪 mango – what a sweet and juicy name for money in Argentina or Perú!
- 🇻🇪 cobre – “copper” is one of the slang words used in Venezuela. Is it what coins used to be made of there?
- 🇪🇨 billuzo, cushqui – mean “money” in Ecuador
- 🇵🇦 chen-chen, chinbilín – Panama sure is creative with their language!
- 🇵🇷 cash, chavos, menudo, tolete – try to use these slang words when you go to Puerto Rico
- 🇲🇽 morralla, marmaja, morlaco, mosca – Mexicans seem to be obsessed with the letter M
- 🇳🇮 luz, papa – literally light and potato – what a funny way to refer to money in Nicaragua
- 🇬🇹 bolas, feria – balls and market – I wonder where these Guatemalan words come from.
- 🇪🇸 verdes – used in several countries is an apparent reference to the American Dollars
- 🇪🇸 palo (verde) – is what you can say in Spanish about a million (dollars)
If the truth be told, I must say I am really impressed with how many options there are across Spanish-speaking countries to say just one little word 😉
If you worry you’ll somehow confuse where each slang for “money” in Spanish comes from, you can always stick to the official “dinero”. But wouldn’t it be cool to add a little bit of color and spice to your Spanish conversations? Just like in the examples below:
🇪🇸 ¿Me prestas cinco lucas? Se me quedó la billetera en la casa.
🇬🇧 Can you lend me 5 thousand pesos? I left my wallet at home.
🇪🇸 ¿Tienes una gamba? Hay un mendigo en la calle.
🇬🇧 Do you have a hundred-peso coin? There is a beggar on the street.
🇪🇸 Este coche debe costar mucho billete.
🇬🇧 This car must cost a lot of money.
🇪🇸 Para comprar una casa así uno tiene que tener mucha plata.
🇬🇧 One has to have a lot of money to buy a house like this.
🇪🇸 ¿Te gusta mi cartera? La compré en los Estados Unidos y me costó 50 verdes.
🇬🇧 Do you like my handbag? I’ve bought it in the US, and it cost me 50 dollars.
🇪🇸 Tengo que sacar un poco de plata del cajero. Ando con puro cobre.
🇬🇧 I have to take out some money from the ATM. I have only a small change on me.
🇪🇸 ¡Qué chévere tus zapatos !¿Cuántos biyuyos te costaron?
🇬🇧 What cool shoes! How much money did they cost?
🇪🇸 Güey, estamos juntando feria para unas chelas. ¿Te sumas?
🇬🇧 We’re collecting money (to buy) a few beers. Are you in?
🇪🇸 El marido de la Lucía gana cinco palos al mes.
🇬🇧 Lucía’s husband earns five million (pesos) a year.
🇪🇸 Che, no tengo tanto mango. ¿Vos creés que soy rico o qué?
🇬🇧 I don’t have so much money. Do you think I am rich, or what?
More Money-Related Slang and Idioms in Spanish
As you may well guess, not only the word: “money” has loads of equivalents in street language. The whole concept of earning, spending, or saving is a popular topic both for slang and idioms. Here is a small selection of the most popular money-related slang and idioms:
- 🇪🇸 andar corto / andar bruja – 🇬🇧 not to have money
- 🇪🇸 estar forrado / ser billetudo – 🇬🇧 to be rich/ loaded
- 🇪🇸 tener mano de guagua – 🇬🇧 to be stingy/ tight-fisted (in Chile)
- 🇪🇸 tirar la casa por la ventana – 🇬🇧 to spend a lot of money celebrating
- 🇪🇸 costar un ojo en la cara – 🇬🇧 to cost a lot of money
- 🇪🇸 pagar a medias – 🇬🇧 to pay 50-50 / to split the bill
- 🇪🇸 ahorrar para las vacas flacas – 🇬🇧 to save money for a rainy day
- 🇪🇸 una ganga – 🇬🇧 a bargain
- 🇪🇸 de yapa – 🇬🇧 for free / without charge
Using this vocabulary is not as hard as it could seem, look:
🇪🇸 Me va a costar un ojo de la cara repintar toda la casa.
🇬🇧 It is going to cost me a lot of money to repaint the whole house.
🇪🇸 ¿Tiraste la casa por la ventana para tu cumpleaños y ahora me estás pidiendo un préstamo?
🇬🇧 ¿You’ve spent a lot of money on your birthday party, and now you are asking me for a loan?
🇪🇸 Mira mis sandalias nuevas. ¡Fueron una verdadera ganga!
🇬🇧 Look at my new sandals. They were a real bargain!
🇪🇸 Fui a comprar carne y el carnicero me regaló unas salchichas de yapa.
🇬🇧 I went to buy some meat, and the butcher gave me a few sausages for free.
🇪🇸 Gracias a Dios que estuvimos ahorrando para las vacas flacas. Sino, ¿de qué viviríamos ahora?
🇬🇧 Thank God we saved for a rainy day. What would we be living off now if we hadn’t?