Dib-dob is used as a generic term for foreign currency (I've come across it for Euros and Dollars).

I've recently heard this used by some RAF types, and had heard it before, from someone presumably influenced by family members in the Royal Navy. The Guardian has it as submariner's slang, though the naval influence when I heard it was shore-based and, I seem to recall, surface ships.

I don't know whether it's specifically UK military, or even whether it extends to the army (the RAF has some significant naval influences which may be surprising to those who haven't read its history). I can't find it in any dictionary I've tried online, and Google isn't being much help even with "-scout -scouts". Urban Dictionary does have a definition (for what it's worth), but a different one "A retarded child. A window licker. A boss eyed dribbler. A Currys or Comet staff member."

I've tried looking at the currencies of places where the Navy (and later RAF) might have been stationed, but haven't seen anything obvious. I'm interested to know where it came from and how long it's been around.

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    Not sure if it is related to your questions: Dibs 2. a slang word for money [C18: shortened from dibstones children's game played with knucklebones or pebbles, probably from dib to tap, dip, variant of dab1]
    – user 66974
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 15:22
  • @user110518 a connection is quite possible, and would be interesting
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 15:24
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    I've never come across this use of dib[-]dob, nor do I recognise dibs as meaning "money" (per the full OED, it's a children's word used to express a claim or option on some object.). But a couple of minutes looking on Google Books and Google Internet suggests there might be a connection to Dib-dob-dib as used by Baden Powel's Scouts (perhaps through the sense of "small change" earned during bob-a-job weeks associated with Scout fundraising in the UK). Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 15:30
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    The closest term to "dib-dob" that Jonathon Green, Chanmbers Slang Dictionary (2008) lists is the Australian term dibber-dobber, dated to "1980s+" and defined as "a tell-tale; a 'whistleblower'." I don't see any obvious connection between that term and the one you ask about. Green says that "dibber-dobber" derives from "dob in" (1950s+)—"to betray, to inform against"—which in turn derives from dialectal "dob"—"to put down with a sharp, abrupt motion." The formal similarity between "dib-dob" and "dibber-dobber" may be purely coincidental.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 7:06
  • 1
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/230956/…
    – user 66974
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 7:37

2 Answers 2


dob (ODO)

verb [with object]
NZ, Australian

2 (dob something in) Contribute money to a common cause.
‘everyone dobbed in a few dollars’
1950s: figurative use of dialect dob ‘put down abruptly’, later ‘throw something at a target’.

HMS Ark Royal's Royal Naval Slang & Terminology
Mentions only Ickies & Klebbies for Foreign money.

Ditto, Jackspeak: A guide to British Naval slang & usage (GoogleBooks)

I can only extrapolate that dib-dob is no more than fanciful reduplication of dob.

See also:
What is the origin of “dibs”? (ELU)

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    "In most of these uses the dialect dob is synonymous with the more familiar dab, and with some of that word’s dialectal uses—for example, a dab can be ‘an amount of money’, and to dab down means ‘to put a thing down quickly’ and figuratively ‘to pay down ready money’. - languagehat.com/the-story-of-dob
    – user 66974
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 7:35
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    Actually, the sense of "money" was present both in dib and in dob (dab).
    – user 66974
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 7:53
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    Funnily enough I'd seen a discussion about that HMS Ark Royal page on a naval forum, because someone commented about the omission of Dibdob.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 25, 2018 at 8:16

Well, I can't find anything else online about anyone actually using “dib-dob,” but as far as its presumptive etymology:

Every applicable sense¹ of “dib” or “dob” in the OED traces its origin back to dialectical variants of “dab, usually with the intention of making the referenced pat of something somewhat smaller. The game dibstones, played with sheep knuckles as a kind of jacks, led both to Americans “calling dibs” and to dibs meaning

3. plural. A slang term for money.

1812 H. Smith & J. Smith Rejected Addr. 111

Make nunky surrender his dibs.

So ultimately on both sides it refers to small dabs or pats of something. The word “dab” itself shows up in Middle English with no apparent predecessor and seems to come from onomatopoeic imitation of the sound (now *splat*) of a small dab of something being flicked down.

¹ “dib, v.¹,” is a variant of “dip” in reference to any small lowering. “dib, n.¹,” is a variant of “dip” in reference to a piece of land that dips down. “ dib, n.³,” is a variant of “dub” in reference to puddles of water.

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