Vocabulary to describe rich people, social class, powerful people, lifestyles, and ways of becoming rich.


Describing rich people

Most of these are synonyms of “rich.”

– (adjective) Having a lot of money or valuable possessions.

Affluent (adjective)

  • “I didn’t realise he lived in an affluent neighbourhood.”

Well-to-do (adjective)

  • “Most of my clients are well-to-do young people who want a head start in their careers.”

Well-off (adjective)

  • “The venue obviously caters to those who are well-off.”

Wealthy (adjective)

For native English speakers, long-term sustainable wealth is often associated with being “wealthy,” but not with “rich.”

  • “He became really wealthy by carefully expanding his property portfolio and gradually accumulating wealth.”

– (adjective) Successful, usually by earning a lot of money.

Although prosperous is about financial success, it is often associated with good health and happiness.

  • “He led a prosperous life and was an amazing example to his children.”

Filthy/stinking rich
– (informal idioms) Extremely rich.

These are usually used in a disapproving way. To clarify, it is the extreme amount of wealth that is considered offensive, not the people nor the way they became wealthy.

  • “Just because someone is stinking rich doesn’t mean they deserve to be scammed.”

Deep pockets
– (noun, American slang term) Extensive financial wealth or resources.

It’s usually used in reference to big companies or organisations, but sometimes very wealthy individuals.

  • “It’s a great idea but you’ll have to find investors with deep pockets to get it off the ground.”

Be made of money
– (informal expression) Rich.

Be rolling in money/cash/dough
– (informal expression) Rich.

  • “You’ve got to stop buying shoes, you’re not made of money.”
  • “If he’s part of the royal family, he must be rolling in dough.”

– (adjective) This has a number of different meanings but it can be used informally to mean “rich.”

  • “I noticed his Rolex watch, he must be loaded.”

The 1% or One percenter
– (term) The richest one percent of people, who are said to have most of the money, property and power in society.

This is a concept that refers to the growing income and wealth inequality in the US, although it’s become popular all over the world.

  • “The top 1% of Australians have more wealth than the bottom 70% combined.”

– (noun) Someone who has money, property or valuable possessions that is worth at least a million dollars.

Paper millionaire
– (noun) Someone who would have at least a million dollars if they sold all their investments. This is not that common.

– (noun) Someone who has money, property or valuable possessions that is worth several million dollars.

– (noun) Someone who has money, property or valuable possessions that is worth at least a billion dollars.

  • “She went from millionaire to multimillionaire to billionaire in a few short years.”

Social class

Class or Social class
– The set of concepts where people within a society are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories according to their economic and social position. The most common being the lowermiddle and upper classes.

Upper class
– (noun, adjective) The social group that has the highest status in society and are usually rich.

Lower class
– (noun, adjective) The lowest status in society and are usually poor.

Middle class
– (noun, adjective) This is between lower and upper class that include professionals and business people and their families.

Definitions of social classes usually depend on the country, its culture and history

There are aspects of a class structure in Australia, but for the most part, it is not really something that people are made aware of or a topic that is openly discussed

  • “Children of the upper classes are usually sent to expensive private schools.”
  • “Those from the middle classes are often highly educated but the same is not expected of those from the lower classes.”

– (noun, adjective) The richest, most powerful, best educated, or best trained people in a particular group or society.

Basically, this refers to the best of the best, like elite athletes, or elite troops, or intellectual elite.

Members of the upper classes are sometimes known as the “social elite.”

  • “The country’s elite owned or controlled most of the wealth.

Old money
– (noun) Rich people whose families have been rich for a long time or the inherited wealth of established upper-class families.

New money
– (informal term) People who have earned their wealth in the first generation, or the money owned by them.

Comparisons are often made to compare their lifestyles and spending habits.

  • Old money are born into wealth and tradition and usually have not experienced life without the money they currently have.”
  • New money tend to be flashy and often show off their lavish lifestyles online.”

“Nouveau riche” is the French equivalent for “new money.”

This is a derogatory or disapproving term to describe people from a low social class who became rich in their lifetime and lack the manners, education, culture, and knowledge of those from old money.

To be honest I’m not sure how often this term is used when not referring to french history. People might use “nouveau riche” instead of new money to sound smart.

– (adjective) To have power, great influence, or important position.

This would often be paired with other words to create compound adjectives or nouns. There are a few that relate to class.

High class
– (adjective) Of good quality, or of high social rank.

It is often also used to mean very fancy, wealthy, or expensive. It is implied that anything that looks or feels high class is catered to those who are wealthy or of high social rank.

  • “All that gold interior in that restaurant made it look very high-class.”

High status
– (adjective) Describes someone who ranks highly in a social or professional hierarchy.

This is often used in a professional sense – financial managers, investment bankers, CEOs are considered high status jobs.

  • “Women with high-status jobs are often unfortunately judged to be less romantically desirable.”

High society
– (noun) Rich, powerful, and fashionable people.

  • “It is often those from high society that are invited to royal weddings.”

Powerful people

– (noun) A person who has succeeded in business or industry and has become very rich and powerful.

– (noun) A person who is rich and successful. Usually from a particular business or they own a large organisation they started themselves.

You would put the industry before “tycoon” or “magnate” to describe the industry they are successful in.
 – Business/Property/Shipping tycoon
 – Shipping/Real estate/Newspaper/Media magnate

– (noun) An important person who is very rich and powerful, especially in the news, film or television industry.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood made a movie about the stunning downfall of a disgraced movie mogul.”

– (noun) The system of government where the richest people in the country rule or have power.

– (noun) Someone who becomes powerful because they are rich.

– (noun) A government in which power is held by a small group of powerful people.

“Oligarchs” are often rich, but they could also be nobles, elites, religious people, academics, philosophers, military officials or wealthy.

The difference between the two government systems is that plutocracy refers to the very wealthy minority, whereas oligarchy refers to a small group of privileged people.

“There have been much discussion about powerful countries either being an oligarchy or a plutocracy.”

Money talks
– (saying) Describes wealthy people or organisations who have power and influence.

“It’s the same wherever you go. At the end of the day, money talks.”


Luxury (noun)
 1. The pleasure and comfort you get from expensive and beautiful things. 
 2. Something expensive which is pleasant to have but not really necessary.

It is often paired with other words to create compound nouns.
 – Luxury apartment/car/yacht
 – Luxury cruise/hotel/resort
 – Luxury brands/goods/items/market

“Luxury” does not mean high quality but it is often considered to be. Luxury brands tend to be expensive because of their namereputation and long history that has helped them to achieve a luxury status. Labelling things “luxury” also adds a level of prestige.

  • “It’s my dream to live a life of luxury. Not having to work or worry about bills.”

– (adjective) Very comfortable and expensive.

  • “We spent a few nights at a luxurious hotel in Singapore.”

– (adjective) Characteristic of or intended for the wealthy and are of good quality.

It can be used to describe anything but it is often used to describe buildings or areas.

  • “Eve doesn’t dress like she’s rich but she lives in a pretty upscale neighbourhood.”

– (adjective) Expensive and luxurious.

It is also often used to mean ostentatiously rich in appearance or showing great wealth. “Opulent” is sometimes used in a fairly neutral way, but it is often considered negative and disapproving.

Opulence (noun)

– (adjective) To show off your money, possession or power in an obvious way to attract admiration or notice. This is disapproving.

  • “Castles look so gloomy and dark outside until you step inside and see how opulent all the rooms and furnishings are.”

– (adjective) Large in quantity and expensive or impressive.

– (adjective) Impressive in a way that looks expensive.

To me, these are not as disapproving as “opulent.”

  • “The lavish wedding was followed by a sumptuous feast prepared by one of the best chefs in the country.”

Have money to burn
– (idiom) To spend a lot of money on things that are not necessary.

  • “I don’t know what they do but they certainly have money to burn.”

Have money to play with
– (expression) To have money available to use.

  • “Since he paid off his car, he has more money to play with.”

The high life
– (noun) The exciting way of living where rich and successful people enjoy themselves by spending a lot of time and money in fashionable places.

  • “Influencers look like they’re living the high life on Instagram.”

Live like a king/lord (idiom)
Live high on/off the hog
In the lap of luxury

– To have a luxurious way of life or to live in great comfort with plenty of money.

  • “You can live like a king if you move to a cheap country.”
  • “It’s a stereotype for people to live high on the hog when they become senior executives of a large company.”
  • “The royal family live in a lap of luxury in the palace.”

More money than sense
– (idiom) Usually used in a humorous way describe people who wastes money.

  • “Products and services that are labelled “luxury” often seem to be aimed at people with more money than sense.”

The jet set
– (noun) Rich, fashionable people who travel around the world enjoying themselves.

– (noun) A member of the jet set. 

Jet-setting (informal adjective)

  • “He was a jet-setting bachelor until he decided to settle down to start a family.”

– (noun) The advantage that a person or group has, because they are rich or because of their position.

  • “The country’s elites are often more concerned with status and privilege than with the problems of the people.”

– (noun) Someone of high social class, who goes to a lot of parties and social events – usually they are wealthy and associate with other wealthy people.

  • “It’s common for socialites to interact with celebrities, politicians and industry leaders.”

Ways of becoming rich

– (noun) Money, property or assets received from someone who has died.

A synonym for inheritance is legacy.

Come into (something)
– (phrasal verb) Someone received something as a result of the death of a relation.

  • “She came into some money when her grandfather died.”
  • “He came into his inheritance and was able to buy a house.”

Heir or heiress
– (noun) A person who will legally receive money, property or a title from another person when they die. This is often used when talking about wealthy people.

  • “I was the only heir to our family’s fortune until my brother came along.”

Born into money
– (expression) Describes a person who was born into a rich family.

Born with a silver spoon in your mouth
– (idiom) To have a high social position and be rich from birth.

  • “Eve was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. I’ve never seen her worry about money.”

– (adjective) Describes a person who was poor that becomes rich.

  • “I love a good rags-to-riches story.”

Hit the jackpot
– (idiom) To suddenly get or win a lot of money.

  • “My cousin seems to have finally hit the jackpot with his latest business idea.”

Strike it rich
– (idiom) To become rich suddenly and unexpectedly.

  • “Her ancestor struck it rich during the gold rush.”

Strike gold
– (idiom) To make large profits or to become rich.

  • “Wally struck gold when he invested in a niche company.”

Make a fortune
– (expression) To acquire great wealth by one’s own efforts.

(adjective) To be rich and successful as a result of one’s own efforts.

  • “Eve is a self-made millionaire who made a fortune selling high quality makeup and creating online tutorials to promote them.”

– (adjective) Describes a plan or wish to make a lot of money in a short time. This is considered disapproving.

  • “There’s nothing wrong with get-rich-quick schemes if you actually get rich.”

Marry money
– (idiom) To marry a rich person.

  • “The easiest way to get rich quick is to marry money.”

Other related vocabulary

Look/feel like a million dollars
– (informal expression) To look or feel extremely good.

  • “I feel like a million dollars after a day at the spa.”

Early to bed and early to rise (makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise)
– (saying) Emphasises that someone who gets enough sleep and starts work early in the day will have a successful life.

See also:
Differences: Rich or Wealthy
Differences: High-end or Luxury

Original posts: 23 October 2020