Where Does the Term "Slush Fund" Come From?

Jason English

Reader Jane emailed to ask about the origin of the phrase "slush fund." Lucky for us, Mark Longo answered that one a few years ago.

Ship image via Shutterstock

Most people think this term originated in the smoke-filled boardrooms of corporate America. Surprisingly, however, it can be traced back to some clever ship cooks who saved the slushy mix of fat and grease that was left over after every meal.

The slush would be stowed away in a secret hiding place until the ship returned to port. The cooks would then sell the fat to candle makers and other merchants, earning themselves a tidy sum in the process. Thus, the term "slush fund" refers to an illicit cash reserve.

Read about more family-friendly phrases that came from the mouths of sailors here: The Nautical Roots of 9 Common Phrases.