Have you ever heard someone say that money talks and wondered what they meant? While this saying is just one of many idiomatic expressions in the English language that have to do with money or that use financial terminology, it’s an extremely popular one. This article will clearly explain the meaning of this common phrase so that you can use it correctly when speaking or writing.
What Does Money Talks Mean?
The idiomatic expression money talks means that money is powerful—that money, and often just money alone, can have a strong influence on people’s decisions or actions. In other words, it means that money can be extremely persuasive. The phrase is used to convey the idea or belief that people who are wealthy have more power or influence in the world than those who are not rich or who are poor; that wealthy people often receive special treatment and can use their money to convince people to do things their way.
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The phrase is commonly used when writing or speaking about politics, as it’s believed by some in the political environment that money can buy votes or cooperation. Of course, the expression is also often used in the business world.
Here are some example sentences using the phrase money talks:
In this business, money talks; without it, it’s hard to get people to listen to you.
The wealthy man said he’d get what he wanted because money talks. When it comes to politics, money talks—those who make big financial contributions to campaigns often find their way into influential positions.
It might help to think of it this way: Wealthy people may often get what they want or have influence over another person’s actions or decisions because their money “talks” for them. Instead of using their voice to convey their wishes, they “talk” with their money.
The Origins of the Phrase Money Talks
Although the exact phrasing money talks has likely only been in use since around 1900, the idea that wealth holds power is certainly much older than that. In fact, the concept was clearly stated back in ancient times by the Greek playwright Euripides in his work Medea, which tells the story of a woman whose husband leaves her to obtain wealth and social status.
In the 1500s, during the Renaissance, the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, known simply as Erasmus, compiled a collection of Greek and Latin proverbs. A proverb is a short, common phrase or expression that imparts wisdom and advice or shares a universal truth. Synonyms of the term proverb include adage and aphorism; thus, the title of his collection: Adagia. Erasmus included in Adagia this proverb:
Against the talking power of money, eloquence is of no avail.
Again, although it is not the exact phrase money talks, the sentiment is clearly the same here. The proverb is saying that money can “speak” loudly and powerfully. So powerfully, in fact, that even the most eloquent or moving speaker couldn’t win in an argument or debate against it, or they wouldn’t be able to drown out money’s “voice.”
Here are some additional examples of well-known proverbs:
Actions speak louder than words. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. A picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
The phrase money talks is an idiom. An idiom is an expression that’s intended meaning can’t fully be understood just by looking at the words that comprise it. These words and phrases have a figurative rather than literal meaning. Even if you’ve never heard the term idiom, you have most likely heard many idiomatic expressions. Here are just a few of the most common idioms used today:
You’re in hot water. His boss gave him the ax. It’s time to face the music. You’ve hit the nail on the head.
If you took the first example literally, you’d think it was describing a person standing in a bathtub full of hot water, perhaps. But the expression is actually used to describe a person who’s in trouble. Likewise, rather than literally being handed a tool for chopping wood, if you get the ax from your boss, it means you’re getting fired. It’s time to face the music means that it’s time to come to terms with the consequences of your actions. And when someone has hit the nail on the head, they’ve gotten an answer exactly right or done something exactly as it should have been done.
It’s clear that the phrase money talks is meant to be taken figuratively, not literally. Taken literally, the phrase would mean that money—coins and bills—can talk or speak, and we certainly know that’s not the case! Instead, talks is meant figuratively; it means that money holds weight or has power or influence, much the way someone does when they’re speaking and strongly expressing their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.
More Common Money Idioms
Did you know that there are an estimated 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language? What’s more, there are a great deal that have to do with money or that use financial terminology to get their meaning across. Here are just a few examples:
A run for (one’s) money. This idiom means a challenge or a healthy competition. Example sentence: The away team really gave our junior footballers a run for their money. It can also mean a period of success or satisfaction. Example sentence: I had a good run for my money as the CEO of this company.
Money down the drain/Pour money down the drain. In this case, the literal meaning of this phrase will help you figure out its figurative meaning. Money down the drain means that money is being wasted or misused, spent needlessly or unnecessarily. Example sentence: The car is so old, all the repairs are just money down the drain at this point.
Put your money where your mouth is. If someone is asked to put their money where their mouth is, they’re being challenged to not just talk about doing something but to actually do it; to follow through on their beliefs, promises, or threats. It can, but does not have to, involve spending money. Example sentence: The CEO promised Christmas bonuses at the beginning of the year; it’s December and time to see if he’ll put his money where his mouth is.
Break the bank. This idiomatic expression means to use up all of your money or to convey that something is very expensive. Example sentence: A Hawaiian vacation would break the bank for me.
Rags to riches/From rags to riches. This idiom describes going from a state of having very little money to having a great deal of money; from poverty to exceptional wealth. Example sentence: The business executive went from rags to riches, not because of luck but thanks to hard work and talent.
Money talks is a common idiomatic expression that means that money is powerful and persuasive. It means that having money might help you get something you want or influence another person’s actions or decisions. It is often used in conversations or writings about business or politics.
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