Plata: Money in Spanish Slang

Quick answer – ‘Plata’ is the Spanish word for ‘silver’, but it’s used as slang for ‘money’ in several countries in Latin America.

Whether you’re walking down the streets of Buenos Aires or drinking a ‘tinto’ (‘coffee’) in Medellín, you´re sure to be understood when talking about ‘plata’.

Of course, there are many different terms for ‘money’ specific to each region or country, but ‘plata’ is definitely one of the most widespread expressions.

Origin of ‘Plata’ in Spanish slang

So, why exactly is the word ‘plata’ used to mean ‘money’?

Well, the connection between ‘silver’ and ‘money’ dates all the way back to the Roman Empire …

A little bit of history

Way back in 211 B.C., a new silver coin was introduced in Ancient Rome. This new coin was called the ‘denarius’, from which the Spanish word ‘dinero’ (‘money’) is actually derived.

This coin prevailed until the 3rd century A.D. (so for quite some time!!) and, as a result, silver itself started to be associated with money. Indeed, the French word for ‘money’ today (‘argent’) is also the word for silver, and let’s not forget that French, like Spanish is a Romance language and evolved from Latin.

The reason the word ‘plata‘ is so broadly used in Latin America today, however, has more to do with the discovery of gold and silver mines in the Americas during the era of Spanish colonialism.

During this period Spanish and Portuguese coffers bulged with the extraction of precious metals, etc.

Argentina is even named after ‘argentum’, the Latin word for ‘silver’!

So, you can see why silver became the ultimate symbol of wealth and therefore a synonym of ‘money’ in many parts of Latin America …

Use / examples of ‘plata’ in Spanish slang

Fast forward to the present day and you’re sure to hear the word ‘plata’ used in everyday conversation as a synonym for ‘money’ (even if coins these days aren’t made of silver or gold, but instead of bronze, copper, aluminum, and nickel!).

Keep in mind that no matter how common it may be, ‘plata’ is still slang, so I wouldn’t use it in budget negotiations or when asking for a raise with Human Resources!

Nonetheless, here are some useful examples –

No tengo plata para ir al cine.

I haven’t got money to go to the movies.

Para decir que alguien es extremadamente rico

Ese tipo está podrido en plata.

To say someone is extremely wealthy

That guy is rotten in silver (i.e., super wealthy)

Oye, Pa, ¿me puedes prestar algo de plata para el fin de semana?

Hey, Dad, could you lend me some money for the weekend?

En Colombia

No tengo plata ni para subirme a un cheto.

In Colombia

I don’t even have enough money to take a the bus.

En ese trabajo se gana buena plata.

You can earn good money doing that job.

¿Cuánta plata traes para el viaje?

How much money did you bring for the trip?

A final interesting fact: the word ‘plata’ is not used as often in Mexico as it is in other Hispanic countries.

In Mexico the word ‘lana’ is actually MUCH more common, so if you’re interested in that particular story, I highly recommend giving our article on the origin and use of ‘lana a quick once over.

Plata’ pronunciation

To pronounce ‘plata’ correctly, just say ‘plah’ (as in the first syllable in ‘platypus’) and ‘tah’.

/ plah tah /

Final thoughts

Well, you now know all about how to use ‘plata’ instead of plain old ‘dinero’ (and even a bit of history for good measure).

Hopefully, you’ll make use of it in your day-to-day conversations with friends. They’ll definitely appreciate your mastery of Spanish, and who knows, perhaps your knowledge of world history as well!

By the way, if you find yourself in a situation in which you don’t have any ‘plata‘ and you need to communicate that fact, you’re sure to find our article on the various different ways to say I have no money‘ in Spanish pretty darn useful!

¡Nos vemos en la próxima!

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