Is Wonga a Slang Term for Money? Unpacking the Truth Behind the Controversial Word

Is wonga a slang term for money? This question has been floating around for quite some time now. For those who are not familiar, wonga refers to cash or money in casual, British English. The term rose to fame thanks to a popular payday loan company that goes by the same name, Wonga.

The word wonga was first coined in the early 2000s and quickly gained popularity among millennials and younger generations. It’s now become a part of the modern lexicon, and many people use it casually in their conversations. However, the word also has a negative connotation because it’s closely associated with the payday loan industry, which has been accused of preying on vulnerable members of society.

Despite the controversies surrounding Wonga and its namesake term, the word has stood the test of time and is now deeply ingrained in modern vocabulary. Whether you’re a Brit or not, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the term wonga and might even use it yourself without realising its origin. So, is wonga a slang term for money? The answer is yes, but its association with the payday lending industry may have tainted its image.

Origins of slang terms for money

Slang terms for money have been around for centuries, and while some might sound strange or unfamiliar to us today, they often have interesting origins rooted in history, culture, and language. Here are a few examples:

  • Bread: This slang term for money is thought to come from the idea that bread is a staple of life and a necessary expense. It has been in use since the 1930s.
  • Cabbage: This term is thought to have originated in the United States around the turn of the 20th century. It may have come from the idea of money being like cabbage leaves, which are layered on top of each other, or from the idea that cabbage was once used as a slang term for a stupid person, and so calling money “cabbage” may have been a way of implying that it is not very intelligent.
  • Clams: This term for money is thought to have originated in the United States in the early 1900s. It may have come from the idea that money was as hard to open as a clam shell, or from the idea that clams were once used as a form of currency by Native American tribes on the East Coast.

Of course, this is just a small sampling of the many slang terms for money that exist. Some other notable examples include “dough,” “greenbacks,” “moola,” and “scratch.”

Evolution of Currency Slang

Money is an ever-present aspect of modern life, and a variety of slang terms have been created throughout history to refer to it. The use of slang to describe currency has evolved over time, from simple references to monetary units to more creative and imaginative terms. Here are some of the key stages in the evolution of currency slang:

  • Simple Terms: The earliest form of currency slang was straightforward and descriptive, with words like “dollars,” “pounds,” and “francs” used to refer to specific types of currency.
  • Nickname Slang: As currencies became more widely used and traded, slang terms started to emerge that referred to currencies by their nicknames. For example, the “buck” became a well-known slang term for the U.S. dollar, while “quid” became a popular term for the British pound.
  • Metaphorical Slang: As time went on, slang terms became increasingly imaginative and metaphorical. For example, the term “dough” was used to refer to money because it is a staple ingredient in bread, which is a basic food item. Similarly, the term “breadwinner” was used to refer to someone who earns money to support their family, because bread was traditionally a symbol of sustenance and survival.

Today, there are countless slang terms used to describe money, with new ones being created all the time. Some are straightforward and descriptive, while others are more creative and imaginative. Regardless of their origins or meanings, these terms reflect the enduring importance of money in our lives, and the human need to find novel and interesting ways to talk about it.

The Impact of Technology on Currency Slang

The rise of digital currency has given rise to new forms of currency slang. Terms like “bitcoin,” “ether,” and “blockchain” have become part of the shared lexicon of the cryptocurrency world, as people seek to describe and understand this new form of money. As digital currencies continue to evolve and become more widely used, it is likely that new slang terms and nicknames will emerge to describe them.

Slang Term Meaning
BTC Short for Bitcoin, the first and most well-known cryptocurrency
HODL A misspelling of “hold,” used to describe a strategy of holding onto cryptocurrency investments rather than selling them
FOMO Short for “fear of missing out,” used to describe the feeling of anxiety or regret that can come from not investing in a particular cryptocurrency or market at the right time

As digital currencies become more mainstream, it remains to be seen whether they will supplant traditional forms of money and slang terms, or whether they will coexist alongside them. What is clear is that the evolution of currency slang is an ongoing process, with new terms and meanings constantly emerging as the human relationship with money continues to evolve.

Other Regional Slang Terms for Money

Wonga may be a popular slang term for money in the UK, but people around the world use their own unique expressions for currency. Here are a few examples:

  • Bread: This term is often used in the United States, and its origins can be traced back to the early 1900s. Back then, bread was a staple food item that people could buy with money.
  • Dosh: In the UK, dosh is a common term for cash. It’s been in use since at least the 1950s, and its origins are unclear.
  • Moolah: This slang term for money is widely used in the United States. Its origins can be traced back to the 1920s, when it first appeared in print.

These are just a few examples of the many regional slang terms for money. Other popular expressions include dough, greenbacks, and scratch.

If you’re traveling to a new country, it’s always helpful to learn a few of these local expressions. Not only will it make it easier for you to understand the locals, but it can also help you blend in and avoid standing out as a tourist.


While wonga may be a popular slang term for money in the UK, it’s just one of many regional expressions used around the world. Whether you’re in the US, UK, or somewhere else entirely, there’s sure to be a unique term for money that’s commonly used by the locals.

Region Slang Term
United States Bread
United Kingdom Dosh
United States Moolah

By learning some of these expressions, you may even be able to impress the locals with your knowledge of their language and culture.

Pop culture references to “Wonga”

The term “wonga” has been used in various pop culture references, including TV shows, movies, and music. Here are a few examples:

  • The British sitcom “Only Fools and Horses” features a character named Boycie who often uses the word “wonga” to refer to money.
  • In the movie “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, a group of friends tries to come up with a large sum of money, referring to it as “wonga.”
  • The Arctic Monkeys song “Piledriver Waltz” contains the lyrics “You look like you’ve been for breakfast at the Heartbreak Hotel / And sat in the back booth by the pamphlets and the literature / On how to lose your waitress girlfriend.” The next line goes, “Wonga, they don’t speak the language.”

It’s clear that the word “wonga” has a certain cultural cachet in the UK, and has been used as slang for money for some time.

Interestingly, many people in the UK today might not even be aware of “wonga” as a slang term for money, instead recognizing the term solely as the name of a controversial payday loan company that went bankrupt in 2018.

Despite this, the term “wonga” is likely to continue cropping up in pop culture for years to come, solidifying its place in the British lexicon.

The impact of slang on language usage and understanding

Slang is an ever-evolving aspect of language that can greatly impact its usage and understanding. From the evolution of terms such as “cool” and “awesome” to the slang terms used in specific cultures or communities, it’s important to understand the impact slang has on language.

  • Slang’s impact on grammar: Slang often goes against the traditional rules of grammar, opting for more informal and colloquial language. While this can be seen as negative, it can also be argued that slang allows for more creativity and flexibility in language usage.
  • The importance of context: Slang terms can often be confusing and misunderstood when used out of context. Understanding the context of the slang term – whether it’s related to a specific community or culture – is crucial for accurate comprehension.
  • The role of technology in slang: The rise of social media and digital communication has brought about a new wave of slang terms, such as “LOL” and “YOLO.” This highlights how slang can evolve and adapt based on new technologies and cultural influences.

One specific example of slang’s impact on language usage is the term “Wonga.” While it originated as slang for money in British culture, it has since become a brand name for a short-term loan company. This highlights how slang can evolve and take on new meanings in different contexts.

Slang term Definition Origin
Wonga A term for money British slang
Wonga A brand name for a short-term loan company Adapted from British slang

In conclusion, slang plays a significant role in language usage and understanding. While it can be seen as informal and possibly detrimental to traditional grammar rules, it also allows for creativity and flexibility in language usage. Understanding the context of slang terms is crucial for accurate comprehension, and its evolution and adaptation in different contexts highlight its impact on language usage and understanding.

Controversies surrounding the use of slang in financial settings

Using slang in any professional environment can be a risky move, but it’s especially controversial in financial settings. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Misunderstandings: Slang can be very regional, so you might assume that everyone understands what you mean when in reality, they’re left scratching their heads. This can lead to serious misunderstandings, especially when it comes to something as important as money.
  • Poor image: Some people believe that using slang in financial settings makes you look unprofessional or uneducated. This can be damaging to your reputation and credibility, especially if you’re trying to impress clients or investors.
  • Legal implications: Slang can sometimes be ambiguous, meaning that it’s open to interpretation. In legal settings, this can be dangerous because it can lead to misunderstandings that might result in lawsuits or legal trouble.

If you do decide to use slang in financial settings, be sure that you’re doing it intentionally and that you’re clear about what you mean. It’s also a good idea to avoid using slang when communicating with people who might not be familiar with the terminology.

Here’s a table that summarizes some of the most common financial slang terms and their meanings:

Slang Term Meaning
Bones Dollars
Bucks Dollars
C-notes American hundred-dollar bills (because of their blue-grey color)
Greenbacks American dollar bills
Moolah Money
Wonga Money (in certain areas)

Remember, while slang can be a useful tool for communication, it’s important to use it wisely and in the right contexts. When it comes to financial settings, it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep things as professional and clear as possible.

Linguistic theories on the adoption and spread of slang terms

There are several linguistic theories that try to explain how and why a new slang term is adopted and spreads. Here are some of them:

  • Symbolic Interactionist theory – According to this theory, slang terms are a result of the roles and identities people have in a particular society. Slang terms are used to create and reinforce group identity and social bonds.
  • Frame theory – This theory suggests that slang terms are used to frame concepts or situations in a new way. By using slang terms, people can change the way others perceive a particular idea or event.
  • Network theory – This theory emphasizes the importance of social networks and relationships in the adoption and spread of slang terms. Slang terms are more likely to spread if they are used by people with a large number of connections.

These theories are not mutually exclusive, and different theories may apply to different slang terms. The adoption and spread of slang terms can also depend on various external factors, such as the media, technology, and global popular culture.

Is Wonga a Slang Term for Money?

1. What is Wonga?

Wonga is a British payday loan company that offered short-term, high-interest loans to people who needed quick cash.

2. Where did the slang term “wonga” come from?

The slang term “wonga” actually predates the payday loan company, and it originally meant “money” or “cash” in British English.

3. Is “wonga” a commonly used slang term for money?

While “wonga” is still used as slang for money in some parts of the UK, it is not as commonly used as other slang terms such as “dough,” “bucks,” or “cash.”

4. Why did the payday loan company choose “Wonga” as its name?

The founder of Wonga chose the name because he liked the sound of it and thought it was memorable. He also liked the fact that it was a slang term for money, as it fit with the company’s mission of providing quick, easy access to cash.

5. Is Wonga still in business?

No, Wonga went into administration in 2018 after facing significant backlash for its high-interest loans and predatory lending practices.

6. Should I use “wonga” as a slang term for money?

That’s up to personal preference, but it’s important to recognize the negative connotations associated with the name due to the payday loan company’s actions.

Closing Thoughts

So, is “wonga” a slang term for money? Yes, it is. However, it’s not as commonly used as other slang terms, and it’s important to recognize the negative connotations associated with the name due to the actions of the payday loan company that shares the same name. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back for more informative articles in the future!