Rich or Wealthy

Rich or Wealthy

By Alena Lien, 

23 October 2020



"Rich" (adjective) means having a lot of money or valuable possessions.


"Wealthy" (adjective) means rich.

Some remarks


Although they are clearly synonyms, there is a discernible distinction between "rich" and "wealthy" among native English speakers. This might be due to different experiences with rich people who are often considered upper-class and how the different social classes interact, or how the words are used in different industries, like investment or banking.


To me, the supposed contrast in finance or investment articles is kind of an artistic license to distinguish different types of people who handle money, not the actual literal differences between "rich" and "wealthy." And somehow these distinctions are common in colloquial or common use.

People may have different comprehensions of what "rich" and "wealthy" mean, in the English language however, they really are synonyms and are often used interchangeably - which is probably the reason why there is a lack of English language articles about their differences. Anyone who has a lot of money can be called "rich" or "wealthy."

With that being said, the differences I have here are not just differences in language use, but also the subtle connotations (implied meanings) that native speakers might associate with the words.



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Differences



English language use


1.   "Rich" is more colloquial than "wealthy."


It's more colloquial to say...


  • "I'm gonna be rich!"

  • "A rich playboy."



Using "wealthy" is correct, but less colloquial or natural.


  • "I'm gonna be wealthy!"

  • "A wealthy playboy"



In my opinion, "wealthy" is more formal.


Compare:


  • "He's a rich man."

  • "He's a wealthy man."



2.   You "are" rich, but you "build/manage" wealth to become wealthy.


This is to do with their different collocations


You can "become rich," or "get rich."


You can be part of "the rich," or be "filthy or stinking rich."


You can have "riches beyond your wildest dreams."


But...


Words such as "create, build, or generate" and "accrue or accumulate" tends to be used with "wealth" rather than "rich." It is "wealth management," not "riches management."


  • "They can afford to spend money because they're rich."

  • "They can afford to spend a greater portion of their money as they accumulate more wealth."



To me, the different collocations contribute to the implied differences between "rich" and "wealthy."



Subtle connotations / Implied meanings


3.   "Wealthy" implies money-making knowledge; "rich" is just about having money.


There seems to be this system of sustaining and managing wealth associated with the word "wealthy," but not so with "rich." In this way, being wealthy is often associated with saving, investing, and even the wisdom and knowledge associated with continuous wealth.



4.   Possession of property and assets is associated with "wealthy" but not "rich."


This is associated with money-making knowledge for the "wealthy" and is based on creating financial security through possessing assets as opposed to just a high-paying salary.


In contrast, "rich" is often associated with getting money through inheritance or winning the lottery. Or even just having a high income but not investing in property or building assets.



5.   "Wealthy" implies long-term; "rich" is short-term.


Again, this is associated with money-making knowledge with being "wealthy" and could be related to setting yourself up for retirement or leaving something for your children - either by passing on your assets or the wisdom and knowledge about generating wealth.


In contrast, "rich" is implied to be short-term usually because there is a lack of knowledge or wisdom concerning sustaining wealth.



6.   "Wealthy" implies upper-class and influence in the community.


Families who have been rich for generations are often part of the upper-class and also have influence, whether in their communities or in politics.

However, even those who become rich in their lifetime often find themselves in a position of influence because of their money. So I think this association is not as strong as the others.




See also: