Quick answer – ‘lana’ in Spanish literally translates to ‘wool’, but in Mexican slang it also means ‘money’. If you’re in Mexico and someone says ‘tiene mucha lana’, there’s a very, very small probability that he/she is actually referring to the fluffy white stuff (unless, of course, you’re talking to a sheep farmer!).
Meaning / Origin of ‘lana‘ in Spanish Slang
You probably already know that ‘lana’ is Spanish for ‘wool’ (and if you didn’t, well, ‘lana’ refers to the thick, curly mass of hair proudly worn by sheep!) … but have you ever heard it in a context in which it didn’t quite fit?
If the answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes’, I’d be willing to wager that you were in Mexico and that your interlocuter was referring NOT to that material so beloved to fleece-wearers all around the globe, but instead to ‘money’!
“Huh, money?!”, I hear you exclaim!
Yes, ‘money’ … but don´t get your knickers in a twist just yet, there’s quite a simple explanation!
A little bit of history …
Before the arrival of Hernan Cortés, the pre-Hispanic peoples of Mexico weaved their finest garments from cotton (even today Mexico remains a major exporter of cotton). Fast forward a century or two and the colonialists were demanding that their outfits be made of wool NOT cotton!
As a result, in the second part of the 16th century, with the unwavering support of the Spanish Viceroyalty (the guys in charge!), the wool industry thrived and became the most important and prosperous industry in Mexico at the time.
During this time, if someone had a lot of ‘lana’, he was by default a wealthy man. As such, ‘lana’ came to be used as a synonym of wealth, prosperity, and later ‘money’.
Erika’s note – ‘lana’ is a very Mexican word, it´s equivalent in many Latin American countries is ‘plata’ (and it’s occasionally used in Mexico too!).
‘Lana‘ as ‘money‘ in Spanish
These days ‘lana’ can be used as a synonym of money.
Just remember that it’s colloquial spanish, so it’s not to be used in formal situations. Never ever use it with the bank clerk, for example (you can thank me later!).
‘Lana’ is so commonplace in everyday Mexican spanish that it even has an entry in the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (the big boys when it comes to deciding on the “correct” form of the Spanish language).
Let’s dig into some examples –
Ese hombre tiene mucha lana.
That man has a lot of money!
¡Se me olvidó la lana!
I forgot the money!
¡Hay que ganar más lana!
We need to earn more money!
¿Oye, cuanta lana sacaste?
How much money did you take out (of the ATM)?
¿Me prestas algo de lana?
Can you lend me some money?
¡Dame la lana!
Give me the money!
Erika’s note – we’ve actually compiled a list of different ways to say ‘give me money’ in Spanish, just thought I´d mention it in case it tickles your fancy!
‘De lana’ Meaning
As mentioned previously, in Mexico ‘lana’ means either ‘money’ or ‘wool’. You can actually use the preposition ‘de’ with both.
You should be able to ‘cotton on’ (terrible pun, but most definitely intended) to which word the phrase refers to by listening to the context.
Here are some examples –
Él suéter es de lana.
The sweater is made of wool.
Here ‘de lana’ is referring to the fact that something is made of wool.
Me dio algo de lana, pero no creo que me vaya a rendir.
He gave me a bit of money, but I don´t think it´ll last me long!
In this example the ‘de’ is part of the phrase ‘algo de’ which means ‘a bit of’, so ‘algo de lana’ translates to ‘a bit of money’.
Thankfully, this one’s pretty easy to pronounce …
… the ‘la’ is said like the ‘la’ in ‘lad’ and the ‘na’ like ‘nah’.
/ la nah /
That’s all for today, folks!
You’re sure to encounter this word a lot when hanging out with your Mexican friends, and now you won’t have to look away sheepishly (pun again intended, I don’t promise it’ll make you laugh though!) because you think your pals are suddenly having an in-depth conversation about ‘wool’!
If you want to know a few other ways to say ‘money‘ in Spanish, I highly recommend you check out our article on the topic (it’s pretty good, I promise!).