Teller: A word often misused in banks – Punch Newspapers


Whenever you need to deposit money in a bank and you have to fill the relevant form, do you too request a ‘teller’? If you do, then you are one of them! I mean one of those who misuse the word.

I hope that if or when you don’t request a ‘teller’, you don’t call for a ‘pay slip’. If you do, then you are committing another error. The reason, again, is that the meaning of the term is different from what you have in mind.  The implication is that ‘Punch English’ is today back in the banking hall – just weeks after we discussed the appropriate use of ‘collateral’ as well as other banking terms like savings, lend and borrow. They are utility words that we need to learn to handle well.


A teller is a human being, not a paper. It is originally an American English term, with its British English counterpart being a cashier. So, the teller is the person who receives and pays out money in a bank. The same thing applies to the cashier, who can also be found in other offices, supermarkets etc. As a matter of fact, many banks display notices to this effect, with plaques indicating Teller 1, Teller 2 etc. So, stop referring to the form you want to fill as a teller because what you need is the ‘deposit slip’.

While noting that ‘teller’ also refers to someone who tells a story and the one who counts votes in an election, I must acknowledge that this lesson was inspired by a colleague of mine at the First Technical University, Ibadan, Mohammed. He had first highlighted the grammatical issues in interchangeably using teller, payslip and paying-in slip in an article on university’s English Clinic platform.

Payslip or paying-in slip?

This is the issue that one must first resolve to conquer the ‘pay slip’ saga – knowing the difference between payslip and paying-in slip. The words look and sound alike, but their meanings and the contexts they are used are different.

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Paying-in slip: A small form you fill in with the date and amount when you pay money into a bank account. In American English, it is called a deposit slip, which Britannica Dictionary defines as ‘a piece of paper that you give with a bank deposit to show how much money you are putting in an account’.

I had filled in the paying-in slip before I realised I left the money at home.

The bank is not doing well again. To get a paying-in slip whenever you want to deposit money is now a problem.

Payslip (one word): A note given to an employee when they have been paid, detailing the amount of pay given, and the tax and insurance deducted.

I always collect my payslip from the account department after receiving my salary.

The embassy wants him to submit his payslips for the past six months.


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