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42 comments on this post.
  1. Eugene:

    I propose the Spanish word Mula, pronounced Moolah. In all Spanish-speaking countries a mule was, and still is, as good as cash, as camels were and are for the Arabs. In Venezuela “Bájate de la mula” (get down off your mule) means “pay up”.

  2. james:

    Moolah is a coruption of the god Moloch. The hefty sacrifice of children to the fire. Just as holy moley is also a corruption of Moloch.

  3. gruff:

    In P?li, the language of the early Buddhist scriptures, “m?la” means both “root” and “money”. Coincidence?

  4. gruff:

    that’s “Pali” and “mula” with macrons over the first vowel

  5. Pradeep:

    I’ve been trying to find the “roots” of “moolah” for quite some time now. Eugene’s theory is the most appealing I’ve ever read thus far. Have I finally come to the end of my quest?

  6. Ben:

    moolah or mula has to have come from the spanish word donkey

  7. Jon:

    Actually, he is not one of the signers of the Constitution, from Wikipedia:
    “Gerry was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. He was one of three men who refused to sign the Constitution because it did not then include a Bill of Rights.”

  8. Jon:

    Oops, too many websites about “Moolah” open at once, that comment was supposed to go to a different board, please delete/ignore.

  9. Jon:

    Actually, I know this article is from a couple years ago, but you might be interested to know that there is a new take on the origins of “Moolah” according to some (one lone politician in Texas) Moolah originated as an insulting slang term against Italians and was then used against Blacks (I’m not sure if his theory is it was used against African-Americans, Africans, or which demographic). According to him though, it is now a thoroughly racist term:

    I do have to admit, this is the same guy who found the term “Black Hole” to be racist, so his etymology skills might be a wee bit off.

  10. kleto:

    Moolah or mula is not the Fijian word for money – the Fijian word money is ilavo.

  11. Melanie:

    I like Eugene’s response….
    “Bájate de la mula”

  12. PG13:

    ‘Mol’ meaning value is used in Hindi and Urdu in India almost exclusively. It may have come from ‘Mula’ from Pali and Sanskrit as gruff (above) suggested.

    Also in some South Indian languages ‘mulla’ means money or valuables, and is use such in many expressions.

    I’ve always thought it came from Hindi or Urdu, but seems like the origin is much older to Pali and Sanskrit.

    It may have made it to the European languages during the Colonial times.

  13. Villainesse:

    Since Roman(/Spanish), Hindi, and Sanskrit(Buddhist?) are deeply related languages, it is possible the above options have the same ancient root.

    But, it is extremely easy to imagine gamblers using the “bajate de la mula” demand and just shortening it right into our modern slang.

  14. John:

    Some slang words don’t even have an origin.

  15. Andre Harris:

    the very spelling of Moolah tends to suggest that it came from somewhere like India, so I think that considering what Gruff and PG 13 said it probably comes from One of the languages of Old India and was brought back by people of the British Raj. It suggests like it is related to some indo-european term.

  16. alexander macrae:

    Romany for money is Wonga – a not dissimilar word. The origins of the Romany language have been traced to South India.

    The Spanish also sounds right – but why just ‘mula’ – why not ‘mulas’, and why does it not linger on in that usage somewhere, or appear in stories from the past?

  17. Yael:

    This feels like the sort of thing that would have been researched by now, so I feel a bit wary of pointing out what may very well be a dud, but in Arabic the word “mal” (pronounced with a long A) means “money, property”; and while “mal” itself seems a bit far from “moolah”, the root of that word is M-W-L, and that W does appear in related forms, such as the plural “amwal”, or the verb “mawwala” (to finance), or the participle “mumawwal” (rich). And going from “amwal” (or similar forms) to “moolah” does not feel all that far-fetched to me. Then again, many false etymologies don’t…

  18. Jeffrey:

    One finds the same meaning but with a different orthography in Damon Runyon where potatoes are often referred to as moolouw. Yet, nothing on Google.

  19. Andrew:

    buckaroo is definitely from spanish vaquero. cowboys have loads of spanish words in their vocabulary.

  20. Lamont E. Lewis:

    While we’re casting our lines for an origin, why not just look for the holy grail or Noah’s Ark? I think they have something in common: None exists. You’re going from India to Fiji on this thing, for cryin’ out loud! It’s chaff in the wind, and never to be gathered. I’ll bet any amount of moolah you wish to come up with. (So I have a dangling preposition. So what?)

  21. Aprotim:

    How about this – like many words (pyjama, dinghy, jute, loot, pundit, etc.), what if this comes from India? In Hindi, ????? (pronounced “mulya”) and in Bengali, ????? (pronounced “mulla/mullo”) both mean “price”. Since this is just the kind of salient word members of the Raj would distort/use with the locals, seems like a likely origin, and given that Kolkata (in Bengal, and noted victim of similar anglophone distortion into “Calcutta”) was the British capital of India until 1911, this is far less far-fetched than Fijian or even South Indian languages. This isn’t some obscure word, either – indeed, Google translate’s default translation of “price” for both language is one of these “moolah” sound-alikes.

  22. Virginia:

    Doesn’t all these diverse origins show how we are all connected, 6 degrees of separation? Here’s another one, JEHOVAH-GMOLAH……..Jeremiah 51:6
    meaning “The God of Recompense.” God revealed Himself to the Israelites through His name showing His characteristics and fulfilling their needs. That which has been stolen from His people has been returned to them, God paid them back double for the suffering they went through. Even though His children were not perfect, God keeps calling them back, reconciling AND promising to give to reward them for returning to Him. Blessings!

  23. MarkB:

    Moolah – see: the Fabulous.

  24. X. Ray:

    Number 1 explanation in my books.

  25. Vailixi:

    Mulya(pronounced moolya) is a Sanskrit word which means, price, worth, charge, salary,cost, value, fare etc; There can be a connection here.


  26. Tomás:

    Could it be child’s speak for ‘mooney’ and no more? I can tell you on good authority that the Irish language root cited above is incorrect. A book of Cork slang, i.e. Cork City Ireland, states that it’s in a Joyce book, unfortunately it doesn’t state which one. My father,a Corkman said he always associated with Cork slang and that Joyce may have picked it up from his father, who grew up in Cork.

  27. Mila:

    I went to an exhibit of the Henrietta Marie, a ship that carried African slaves. Part of the exhibit was on terms and words brought into the English language by West Africans, and moolah was one them.

  28. Colleen:

    There are hundreds of languages spoken in West Africa. As a possible source, it’s a direct link with USA. Re Thomas’ suggestion of child’s speak: my nephew’s early word for water was ‘woolly’, so… My family retained a few quaint children’s versions of words. Is this known to occur beyond a family circle?

  29. marrano Miguel:

    not normal spanish, most are Ladino,

  30. LG:

    I’ve been doing research on the Chinook Jargon (a widespread goldrush-era pidgin language of the Pacific Northwest) that might back up the first theory in your article.

    Even though Chinook Jargon faded out after the first world war, many words (like Skookum – awesome, Coolie – a kind of glacial valley, The Sticks – the wilderness) still live on in the lexicon of the West Coast.

    The Chinook Jargon word for mill (derived from the french) is in fact Moola, and several writers on Chinook have suggested a connection to the modern slang. Even today in the deep north of the Pacific Coast, the mills are synonymous with income in communities that have little else going for them economically.

  31. infanttyrone:

    At the risk of not being granted an indulgence for the intrusion…

    Does anyone have a basis for connecting moola/moolah to “mullah”?

    Seems like religions are generally at the service of, as noted by the etymologist Carlin, a deity that is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omni-whatever, but who always needs Money.

    Thanks for any responses…

  32. thinkyhead:

    Google Ngram Viewer shows the word “Moolah” (capitalized) first appearing in print in 1810, quite a long time before the 1930’s. It appears capitalized most of the time up until 1926, when it then starts to appear more often in informal lowercase.

  33. Heather:

    Spanish silver coins were the first global currency, so it would make sense for people to use a Spanish word for wealth/assets.

  34. Sifu Dave:

    Remember that nearly ALL language comes from ‘sounds’ that connect naturally with the objects being named. Such as Ancient Egyptian: Cat – ‘Mau’ (‘Meow’), Hawk is ‘Hau’ (the Haauu.. sound they make), etc. Most words originally derive from ‘natural’ Onomatopoeia (‘sizzle’, cuckoo, ‘slither’, Ssssnake, ‘Criket’, etc., etc….).

    So: it seems ALL of the ‘Moolah’ derivations are Valid – and there is LOTS of global lingual overlap of similar ‘Value-Based’ words ‘sounding like’ Mool-ah… from Irish, to Hindi, to Spanish, etc., etc….

    Hence – the Universality and popularity of using the sound ‘Moolahhh…’ to represent money.

  35. EoS:

    I have always believed that the word Moolah is sprung from molasses, i.e. suger, i.e. money. But probably a far to simple explanation.

  36. Jenn:

    The word “amoleh” for salt could be a possible etymology.

  37. Delmar L Nicholson:

    Yes indeed one of my favorite words as well but and I concur with your theories but alas ,no answer. Please continue your hard work! :-)

  38. Richard Howorth:

    I recall reading a novel by the Irish American writer, J. P. Donleavy, and his use the word “moulagh” for dough, or money. I remember this because, though I often used the word moolah as a kid around my brothers and friends, it was the first time I encountered it in print, and for a long time I thought moulagh was the way the word is spelled. Unless I’m mistaken, this would give credence to the Irish connection, “moll oir.”

  39. Dhirendra Singh:

    I am a fijian, and no words native or slang is in the Fijian dialect exist as Moolah or mula.. The closest we use in Fiji is Mullah.. which means “Islamic Priest”.

  40. Dhirendra Singh:

    Not sure how the Times of India came up with the story.

  41. Neil Husher:

    If not a slur in the past, it has become the favorite of conservative politicians with a wink and a sneer to name or pronounce “Mullah”, an Islamic theologian.

  42. sutapa sengupta:

    moolah may come from sanskrit mulyah, which means price.
    british could pick it from indian vernacular when they colonise india.

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