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What is a 'Monkey'?

In gambling, a ‘monkey’ is a UK term used to indicate the sum of £500 ($626). Originally used as London cockney rhyming slang, it has become a part of British monetary culture and, by virtue of that, has passed into gambling lexis too.

A Monkey Explained

To comprehend why such a seemingly nonsensical word is used to describe an apparently random sum of money, you have to understand the logic of cockney rhyming slang. This ever-evolving dialect replaces original words with alternatives that either rhyme with them or reference their intended meaning in some other way.Sticking to the topic of money, an example of the former would be an ‘Oxford’, referring to an old British crown. This is a shortened version of the phrase ‘Oxford scholar’ which itself rhymes with dollar, a currency roughly the equivalent of a crown. An example of the latter would be a ‘bullseye’ for £50 ($62), referencing the number of points you would receive for hitting the bullseye on a dartboard.In this instance, a monkey is an example of the latter, as it references a concept rather than rhyming with the original word. Its origins are believed to date back to a time when the British Empire controlled India and the country used 500 rupee notes with monkeys on them. As such, when British soldiers were stationed in the sub-continent they became accustomed to associating the number 500 with a monkey - a habit they later brought back to their home country.As you would imagine, this term is most commonly used in British casinos and gambling circles, and even more commonly in London itself. However, given the global cultural influence of the British and London’s importance as a major world city, the term has spread far and wide from its origins and is often recognised in countries as far-flung as the USA, Canada and Australia.