There are MANY ways to say ‘money’ in Spanish and it can even vary greatly from country to country! If you’re immersing yourself in Spanish or Latin culture, it can often be quite confusing (not to mention, hilarious!) the first time you hear some of the slang.
Why are people in Spain talking about dogs? Do I need wool to pay in Mexico? Are my Argentinian friends asking me for Italian pasta? Was I supposed to bring my own turkey to the restaurant?
But worry not, because in this article I’m going to answer all of these questions (and many more!).
Buckle up your seatbelts and let’s get into it!
To ease our way into the list, I give you ‘dinero’, which is the actual Spanish word for ‘money’. ‘Dinero’ is your go-to for any formal exchange at work, and most conversations you’ll have with both acquaintances and strangers.
A fun fact about the word ‘dinero’: it comes from the Latin word ‘denarius’, which was a type of coin used during the Roman Empire.
Armando – La inflación está cada vez peor. ¡No sé cómo hacer crecer mis ahorros!
Alejandra – ¿Has pensado en invertir tu dinero?
Armando – Inflation is getting worse. I don’t know how to make my savings grow!
Alejandra – Have you thought about investing your money?
‘Lana’ literally means ‘wool’ in English, but it’s used as a synonym of ‘money’ in Mexico.
Back in the 16th century (almost 100 years after the Spanish conquest), there was great demand for wool in Mexico (the upper-class colonialists often had expensive tastes).
So, a person who had a lot of wool was by consequence also extremely wealthy, which is why having ‘mucha lana’ (‘lots of wool’) also means to have a lot of money in the Mexico of today.
Yeah, if you pictured someone wearing a woolen sweater, you weren’t entirely right!
Dos niños volándose la clase
Andrés – Entonces, ¿qué se te antoja hacer?
David – No sé…¿Traes lana para el cine?
Two kids skipping class
Andrés – So, what do you wanna do?
David – I don’t know … Do you have enough money to go to the movies?
‘Plata’ is the Spanish word for ‘silver’, but it´s also slang for money throughout Latin America.
When the Spanish invaded indigenous villages and territories, they found an abundance of gold and, of course, silver. Argentina was even named after ‘argentum’, which is Latin for ‘silver’.
Amigos organizando un viaje
Joaquín – ¡Tenemos suficiente para cubrir los gastos del trayecto!
Estefanía – Pero necesitamos juntar más plata si queremos entrar a todos los sitios arqueológicos.
Friends organizing a trip
Joaquín – We have enough (money) to cover the travel expenses!
Estefanía – But we’re gonna need to save more if we want to get into all the archaeological sites.
Speaking of valuable metals, the word ‘pasta’ (or ‘paste’ in English) is also used as a colloquialism for ‘money’.
It’s less random a term than you may think, since it refers to the paste resulting from the alloy of molten metals when minting coins. So, if something costs a ‘pasta’ in Spain, it means that it’s quite expensive!
This one’s far more common in Spain and Argentina than in any other Spanish-speaking country. If you ask to borrow some ‘pasta’ from a friend in Mexico, they might actually give you a box of Italian pasta.
Catalina – ¡Precioso tu coche, eh!
Ana – ¡Gracias! Me ha costado una pasta…
Catalina – What a lovely car!
Ana – Thanks! It was rather expensive …
Mexico is famous for its ingenious slang, and this word’s no exception.
Back in the day, when people went to a ‘feria’ (the Spanish word for a ‘carnival’ or a ‘town fair’), they needed to bring cash in order to enjoy the many games, attractions, and rides.
At some point, the word became synonymous with ‘cash’, and eventually everyone started using it as a slang term for ‘money’ in general.
Paco – Wey, ¿traes la feria del mes para la renta?
Manuel – No, wey, me pagan hasta el miércoles.
Paco – Bro, do you have this month’s rent?
Manuel – Nah, dude, I get paid on Wednesday.
This one’s the equivalent of the English word ‘change’, both in the sense of small denomination coins or bills AND a “transformation“.
As such, you can use it in pretty much the same way that you’d use the word ‘change’ in English (breathe sigh of relief!).
En la tiendita de la esquina
Cliente – ¿Me podrías cambiar este billete de 200 pesos?
Vendedor – Sí, puedo darte cuatro billetes de 50, ¿está bien?
At the corner store
Customer – Could you change this 200 peso bill for me?
Storekeeper – Yes, I can give you four bills of 50, is that okay?
In both Mexico and Honduras, ‘morralla’ refers to low denomination coins (yes, the ones spilling out of your piggy bank!).
The Royal Academy of Spanish Language might describe ‘morralla’ as a ‘mixture of useless and worthless things’, but don’t let this definition fool you! Given that its circulation in Mexico can amount to more than 20 billion pieces each year, it´s still very much considered part of the country’s monetary base.
En un puesto de tacos
Taquero – Aquí tiene su cambio, joven.
Comensal – Oiga, ¡me dio pura morralla!
At a taco stand
Taquero (person in charge of a taco stand) – Here’s your change, young man.
Diner – Hey, you gave me all coins!
‘Pachocha’ is a fun word to say, even for Spanish natives!
Back in the 19th century, gold and silver ingots extracted from the mines of a town called Mineral del Monte were deposited in the city of Pachuca (also a pretty fun word to pronounce).
The vouchers given in exchange were initially called ‘pachucos’, which later evolved into the word ‘pachocha’.
To this day ‘pachocha’ remains a slang term for money, and it’s also used to talk about wealth and abundance in general.
En una fiesta de Año Nuevo
Sobrina – ¿Por qué todos los años comemos sopa de lentejas en la cena de Año Nuevo?
Tía – ¡Para asegurar que tendremos pachocha todo el año!
At a New Year’s party
Niece – Why do we always eat lentil soup on New Year´s Eve?
Aunt – To make sure we have a prosperous year!
Varo / Baro
This word for ‘money’ is particularly common in Mexico City and the surrounding states.
Since it’s slang, it can be spelled with either a ‘v’ or a ‘b’.
Its origin is unknown, but some linguists think that ‘baro’ (spelled with a ‘b’) may have come from the Caló language used by gypsy communities in Spain, Portugal, and France, which later emigrated to Mexico.
Me encantaría irme de vacaciones, pero me falta varo.
I’d love to go on vacation, but I’m short of money.
¿Ya viste mi bici nueva? ¡Está lindísima y me costó solo 3 mil baros!
Have you seen my new bike? It’s super cute and it only cost three thousand pesos!
Now let’s travel back to 1930s Spain, during which time a turkey cost 5 pesetas.
And what do turkeys have to do with money, you ask?
Well, considering that ‘pavo’ is the Spanish word for ‘turkey’, it’s easy to see why the Spanish began to call the 5 pesetas coin a ‘pavo’, and it’s still used today to refer to a euro.
Español – Oye, ¿tendrás un pavo que me prestes?
Mexicano – …¿Del refri, o cómo?
Español – No, no…¡Un euro!
Spanish – Hey, do you have a turkey I can borrow?
Mexican – From the fridge or what?
Spanish – No, no … I mean a euro!
Jump back in the time machine and we’re now heading to colonial Mexico, during which time a fifth of every miner’s earnings had to be given to Spain as tax.
Ever since then a ‘quinto’ (or a ‘fifth’ in English) has been a colloquial expression for a small denomination coin.
¡No traigo ni un quinto!
I don’t even have a fifth on me! / I don’t have any money on me!
According to the Royal Academy of Spanish Language, a ‘guita’ is a cord made of hemp, but it can also be used to mean that old-favorite of pockets and wallets everywhere: cash.
This is because people in Spain used to carry their cash inside a bag of cloth secured with a hemp cord. After a while, ‘guita’ eventually became a word for money itself.
¡Ese tío me debe mucha guita!
That dude owes me a lot of money!
Have you ever mistaken a lion for a dog?
Well, in 1870 Spain introduced two coins stamped with an image of a lion that people often mistook for a female dog. ‘Perras’ is the Spanish word for ‘dogs’ (of the female variety) and it also remains a popular expression for money in Spain.
¡El vecino tiene muchas perras!
The neighbor has a lot of dogs. / The neighbor has lots of money.
Back to the Roman Empire once again (phew, I´ve taken you on a quite the world tour, haven’t I!) …
The Germanic tribes introduced counterfeit coins called ‘morlacus’ which led to high inflation. Fast forward a few years and some countries in Central America adopted the word ‘morlacos’ as both a synonym of money in general, and as a term for someone who feigns ignorance.
It’s particularly common in El Salvador, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico.
Se necesitan muchos morlacos para viajar a Japón.
You need a lot of money to travel to Japan.
‘Marmaja’ comes from an ancient Greek word meaning ‘to shine’. It’s used as a synonym for both iron sulfide (because of its shiny aspect) and money (or, more accurately, a lot of money!).
It’s mainly used in Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, and Mexico.
¡Qué ganas de tener marmaja para comprar una casa en la playa!
I wish I had money to buy a house on the beach!
Common phrases with ‘money’ in Spanish
Dame dinero – give me money
‘Dame dinero’ literally means ‘give me money’, and it’s a pretty straightforward way to ask someone for money.
Keep in mind that this phrase on its own could be considered rude, so be sure to add a ‘por favor’ (‘please’) to the end if in doubt.
Papá, dame el dinero para el recreo
Dad, give me money for recess.
Más dinero – more money
‘Más dinero’ literally translates to ‘more money’ (not to be confused with ‘mucho dinero’, or ‘lots of money’).
¿Sabes si hay más dinero en la otra cuenta de banco?
Do you know if there’s more money in the other bank account?
Necesito dinero / Ocupo dinero – I need money
‘Necesito dinero’ translates to ‘I need money’, but sometimes you may hear people say ‘ocupo dinero’ (literally, ‘I occupy money’ in English).
There’s actually a bit of debate going on about the latter, because it’s considered an incorrect form of speech. It’s not offensive in any way, but it’s not the actual meaning of the verb ‘ocupar’ (i.e., ‘to occupy’).
Niña 1 – ¡Ocupo dinero para gastar en videojuegos!
Niña 2 – No se dice ‘ocupo’, se dice ‘necesito’.
Girl 1 – I ‘occupy’ money to spend on videogames!
Girl 2 – It´s ‘I need’, not ‘I occupy’.
No tengo dinero – I don´t have money
This one means ‘I don’t have money’.
Just remember that subject pronouns in Spanish are omitted when the subject’s already implied by the conjugated verb, hence the lack of ‘yo’ (‘I’ in English).
Be sure to check out our article on all the different ways to say ‘I have no money‘ in Spanish if you’d like to learn a few fun variations of this phrase!
¡Vamos por chelas!
No tengo dinero, wey…
Let’s go grab some beers!
I don’t have any money, bro …
Vale mucho dinero – it costs a lot of money
This means ‘it costs a lot of money’.
What more can I say? It does what it says on the tin!
I highly recommend giving our article on asking how much something costs in Spanish a quick once over if you´re going to be spending that hard-earned cash in a Spanish-speaking country!
After all, you don’t want any nasty surprises, do you?
El viaje vale mucho dinero pero, ¡vale la pena!
The trip costs a lot of money but it’s worth it!
Idioms about ‘money’ in Spanish
No tener dónde caerse muerto
This phrase literally means ‘nowhere to drop dead’, but it’s a far cry from the English idiom ‘drop dead gorgeous’, so don’t mix them up!
In Latin America, someone who doesn’t have a place to ‘drop dead’ is a very poor person. Sounds awful, but it’s often used to say that you’re going through a rough patch, economically speaking.
¿Salimos de antro?
No, wey. Ahorita no tengo ni dónde caerme muerto.
Wanna go out clubbing?
Nah, man. I can’t afford it right now.
Con dinero baila el perro
This one paints a funny picture! It translates to ‘the dog dances with money’ …
The actual meaning isn’t so cute though, as it’s used to say that anyone can be corrupted / convinced to do something with the promise of money.
¿Qué no prometió el alcalde disminuir la delincuencia?
Ya sabes cómo es esto, con dinero baila el perro…
Didn’t the mayor promise to reduce crime?
You know how it is; money corrupts everyone …
No dar ni un peso / No dar ni un duro (por él/ella/eso)
This one means that you don’t have any belief whatsoever in someone / something; it’s similar in meaning to the English ‘to write off’.
‘Un peso’ is used in Latin America, and ‘un duro’ in Spain.
Al principio, no daba un peso por él, pero resulta que es heredero de varias minas de oro.
At first, I thought he was a nobody (OR ‘I wrote him off’), but he turned out to be heir to several gold mines.
‘Estar roto’ literally means ‘to be broken’. But fret not, this phrase doesn’t allude to our emotional state (or, god forbid, a problem with our brand, spanking new iPhone), but instead to our economic situation.
It¿s basically the Spanish equivalent of ‘to be broke’.
Me gustaría ir a la fiesta, pero estoy súper roto.
I’d love to go to the party, but I’m super broke.
That’s all for today, folks! I really hope you’ve enjoyed my comprehensive guide on all the different ways to say ‘money’ in Spanish!
The next step is to use some of the expressions and sayings with your Spanish-speaking friends!
And who knows … maybe you’ll even surprise them with some fun facts AND your new-found love of history!