I first heard the term "heavy sugar" in a song by the same title, by the band Calhoun. The usage in the song is:

"I've got heavy sugar in the bank."

Some searching brought me to a jazz slang site that says it means "a lot of money." There doesn't seem to be a lot of info out there on its origin or usage - I only found a few brief acknowledgments of it being a jazz slang term, and they consistently dated it to the late '20s. Anyone have further info on its usage and origins?

  • 3
    You seriously named yourself after your question?
    – Daniel
    Jul 15, 2011 at 18:19
  • perhaps it's somehow related to 'sugar daddy'. Jul 15, 2011 at 18:22
  • 1
    I logged in with an open id and got something like user43221, so I definitely wanted something else. Plus, I think it's a cool phrase, that's why I want to know more about it.
    – hsw32
    Jul 15, 2011 at 18:26
  • @whoabackoff, I suspect that it is, but I have no proof.
    – user10798
    Jul 15, 2011 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


The Oxford English Dictionary traces sugar as slang for money as far back as 1862, in an article in Cornhill Magazine about thieves' cant. I found the article in Google Books.

We have just touched for a rattling stake of sugar at Brum

is translated as the thief having robbed someone in Birmingham for a large amount of money. The paragraph above suggests an analogy with sweet to refer to an unsuspecting (and therefore good) target of crime. Now, sweet has been used in a general sense of "something desirable" for a very long time. OED has it as "an emotional epithet expressive of the speaker's personal feelings as to the attractiveness of the object" from 1779, and as "yielding pleasure or enjoyment to the mind or feelings" since 888 (!).

As for heavy, its metaphoric usage as something serious or important is also very old, certainly going back over a thousand years.

Putting it together, heavy sugar is a serious amount of money; and it's "sugar" because money is a sweet thing to have.

  • That makes sense - so I'm getting that it roughly amounts to saying "some serious cash." I wonder what made this odd combo surface in the 1920s jazz scene? Don't have the rep to upvote yet, but thanks.
    – hsw32
    Jul 15, 2011 at 19:23
  • I'm afraid my knowledge of the Jazz Age is terribly limited, but perhaps somebody else can chime in.
    – user10798
    Jul 15, 2011 at 20:02

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