monopoly

[ muh-nop-uh-lee ]
/ məˈnɒp ə li /

noun, plural mo·nop·o·lies.

Origin of monopoly

1525–35; <Latin monopōlium<Greek monopṓlion right of exclusive sale, equivalent to mono-mono- + pōl(eîn) to sell + -ion noun suffix

OTHER WORDS FROM monopoly

mo·nop·o·loid, adjectivean·ti·mo·nop·o·ly, adjectivepre·mo·nop·o·ly, noun, plural pre·mo·nop·o·lies, adjectivepro·mo·nop·o·ly, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

How much money do you start with in Monopoly?

In Monopoly, the money comes in denominations of $1 (white in color) to $500 (gold or orange). Each player starts with $1,500, as distributed and managed by the game’s designated banker.

The $1,500 consists of 2 $500 bills, 2 $100 bills, and 2 $50 bills. It also includes 6 $20 bills; 5 $10 bills, 5 $5 bills, and 5 $1 bills.

What does Monopoly money mean?

Monopoly money refers to the play money used in the board game Monopoly.

It can also be used to describe money that shares qualities with play money either in appearance or in perceived lack of value.

Where did the game Monopoly come from?

Parker Brothers released the now-classic board game Monopoly in 1935. Charles Darrow, usually credited as the game’s creator, played an early, homemade version of the game in 1932. This, in turn, was based on The Landlord’s Game, patented by its creator Elizabeth Magie in 1904. Both the Parker Brothers game and Magie’s featured physical play money for gameplay.

How to use the term Monopoly money 

As the game Monopoly gained popularity, people began to use Monopoly money to describe money that in some way resembled the fake money from the game. That could mean money with real value that looks or feels strange physically, like the multi-colored, thin paper bills from the game. It could also refer to scrip, vouchers, or other tokens that only have value in certain limited circumstances.

The 1949 book Grandparents Go Abroad compared the German Deutsche Mark to Monopoly money in look and feel. During 1958 hearings about payola, a bribery scheme between music publishers and radio stations, a witness before the U.S. House of Representatives claimed that the record company BMI was handing out Monopoly money to get airplay. The witness invoked the game, suggesting that the money was thrown around “indiscriminately” like play money. The term was used again in a Congressional hearing in 1976, this time to describe the scrip used for the food-stamps welfare program.

In 1998, a New Yorker cartoon, featuring the Monopoly mascot Mr. Moneybags as a bank teller, invoked Monopoly money to describe the look and feel of the newly revamped twenty-dollar bill.

In colloquial speech and writing, counterfeit money is sometimes called Monopoly money for rhetorical effect to indicate its worthlessness, and, in the case of poor counterfeits, its fake appearance. The phrase Monopoly money has other, unrelated, uses which predate the board game and which are worth noting here.

As early as 1901, monopoly money was used to describe money made and held by actual monopolists. Monopoly money has also been used to refer to currency issued by a government as early as 1915, when Alfred and Maud Westrup contrasted monopoly money with a plan by landowners to issue their own currency. Monopoly money in this sense was a point of contention discussed by the U.S. Congress during hearings for the Banking Act of 1935, which restructured the governance of the Federal Reserve.

Several writers addressed the perceived weaknesses of monopoly money in the 1980s. In 1984, for example, a group called the Choice-in-Currency Commission proposed that gold coins should compete with “the Federal Reserve System’s monopoly money.” Here, monopoly money may have additionally referred to the monopolistic and capitalistic needs to win the board game.

More examples of Monopoly money:

“We see various types of forged bills…Some are fairly sophisticated, and some are not. Some you can see why people would be fooled. Others look like Monopoly money.”
—Joe Messerich, WQAD, March 2018

“A lot of times we exceed goals but our productivity rate is not high enough to get a full bonus which doesn’t make sense…We meet and exceed our goals constantly and as a reward we get a “congratulations” or “swag bucks,” which is basically Monopoly money that we can use in the Swag Store [which sells Amazon merchandise].”
—Amazon employee quoted by Shelby Rogers, Interesting Engineering, March, 2018

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for monopoly

British Dictionary definitions for monopoly (1 of 2)

monopoly
/ (məˈnɒpəlɪ) /

noun plural -lies

exclusive control of the market supply of a product or service
  1. an enterprise exercising this control
  2. the product or service so controlled
law the exclusive right or privilege granted to a person, company, etc, by the state to purchase, manufacture, use, or sell some commodity or to carry on trade in a specified country or area
exclusive control, possession, or use of something

Derived forms of monopoly

monopolism, nounmonopolist, nounmonopolistic, adjectivemonopolistically, adverb

Word Origin for monopoly

C16: from Late Latin, from Greek monopōlion, from mono- + pōlein to sell

British Dictionary definitions for monopoly (2 of 2)

Monopoly
/ (məˈnɒpəlɪ) /

noun

trademark a board game for two to six players who throw dice to advance their tokens around a board, the object being to acquire the property on which their tokens land
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for monopoly

monopoly

The exclusive control by one company of a service or product.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.