Pecunia non olet is a famous Latin saying:

  • Pecunia non olet ("money does not stink") is a Latin saying. The phrase is ascribed to the Roman emperor Vespasian (ruled AD 69–79).

  • The phrase is still used today to say that the value of money is not tainted by its origins.

Is there an English version of this saying or is it used in Latin also by English speaking people? I could not find any apart from its literal translation, which I suppose, is not commonly used.


The origin of the saying was about a tax on urine.

My answer offers evidence that there may not be an equivalent saying in English today. The closest phrase is probably Hold your nose and take the money, which is explained below.

Some sources of money do stink, in the eyes of the law and in the opinions of many people. This does not necessarily mean that people will not take dirty or smelly money, just that they will rationalize their actions.

The United States Supreme Court recently overturned the conviction of an ex-governor, but used the word "tawdry" to describe his actions in accepting gifts from a constituent. Even legal money can smell.

We have the phrases dirty money and money laundering. This article quotes the Unted States Treasury Department:

Money laundering is the process of making illegally-gained proceeds (i.e. "dirty money") appear legal (i.e. "clean"). Typically, it involves three steps: placement, layering and integration. First, the illegitimate funds are furtively introduced into the legitimate financial system. Then, the money is moved around to create confusion, sometimes by wiring or transferring through numerous accounts. Finally, it is integrated into the financial system through additional transactions until the "dirty money" appears "clean."

Money laundering is a crime.

Addressing specifically the question of smell:

From the Birmingham Mail, April 10, 2010

Just Hold Your Nose and Take the Money

IMAGINE the moral dilemma at Girl Guide HQ where a pounds 400,000 legacy has landed on the doormat.

Trouble is, the cash comes from the estate of notorious paedophile Reginald Forester-Smith, a society photographer who served eight years from 1999 for sexually abusing three girls, over two decades, one of them his daughter.

The article does not say if the Girl Guides took the money.

Finally, from the OP's own source:

In London Fields by Martin Amis, while smelling a wad of used £50 notes, foil Guy Clinch observes, "Pecunia non olet was dead wrong. Pecunia olet."

This aesthetic will become more widespread as people pay more and more with credit cards or by intelligent phones, which will also facilitate the tracking of money. Large bills may be outlawed in the near future because they facilitate criminal transactions. (It's time to kill the $100 bill)

To reiterate, I am showing that the answer to the OP's question may be: there isn't an equivalent English phrase -- at least not one in good odor.


No equivalent in English? how about

"where there's muck there's money?"

I do very well as a waste dealer!

  • "Where there's muck, there's brass" – Ben May 8 '18 at 7:55

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