Rich, wealthy and well-off


Italian, Italy
Can some of you please tell me the difference between these 3 (for me) synonymies?

  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There is some kind of scale of affluence in my mind. Here is an entirely subjective view, based on who knows about someone's wealth:

    Rich = the world knows;
    Wealthy = their country knows;
    Well-off = everyone who knows them knows.


    Italian, Italy
    Hmm..that's interesting, I had never thought about it from this prospective. I thought that well-off was more colloquial, but it's probably beacause you talk with friends of people that you know. And it doesnt' happen often that you personally know someone that all country knows he/she is rich.
    Anyway, thanks a lot!


    Senior Member
    As far as I know all three are used to signify the same thing ie;loaded(slang);) I have never heard an explanation that seperates the meaning of them.


    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Based on nothing scientific... I think of "wealthy" as a more genteel way of saying "rich," while "well-off" means financially comfortable but not necessarily rich.



    Senior Member
    Ok I think the choice of word is more about the way someone wants to say the person "has money" rather than how much of it they have.Lets be honest nobody "shouts it from the rooftops do they"?;)


    Senior Member
    ratto said:
    Ok I think the choice of word is more about the way someone wants to say the person "has money" rather than how much of it they have.Lets be honest nobody "shouts it from the rooftops do they"?;)
    Too true. As discussed in this article about the use of the word "rich" from yesterday's New York Times, even Bill Gates does not like to refer to himself as "rich,":

    Asked in 2003 if he felt rich, Bill Gates would say only, "At this point I'm clearly not by some definition middle class."


    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Here's something else to ponder. At least in my experience "Well-off" tends to be used with some sort of qualifier.

    We rarely ever say "well-off" in and of itself.

    Instead, we say: pretty well-off, fairly well-off, quite well-off, really well-off. It seems to me that there are even degrees to which someone can be considered being "well-off" based upon someone else's idea of what that means.

    We do not tend to use these types of qualifiers with either "rich" or "wealthy."


    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect

    This piece of comment is very helpful. I wonder if I can say the following in my context:

    Someone in my soccer team has a comfortable living. He doesn’t need to work and everyday just look at the stock index online. He traveled to many countries like the US and the UK and this for me is luxury, because he travels from time to time (quite often) to foreign countries. I today wrote something about him:

    He’s not only handsome but also well-off.

    I wonder if “well-off” suits here.

    I guess the sentence itself is quite weird, but yes he’s handsome.

    I need your help.
    Last edited by a moderator:


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I think it depends on who's doing the talking. I don't think I've ever heard a rich person refer to anyone else as "rich"; I think that word is used only by people who have less money. On the other hand, I wouldn't expect to see a popular magazine blurb announce that they've a listing of the "50 Most Well-Off" people. Brokers invite you to let them help you invest your "wealth" even if you have only $1000 to your name.

    I don't share Panjandrum's perspective (post #2); perhaps that's mainly British?


    Senior Member
    I think comedian Chris Rock distinguished "wealthy" from "rich" fairly succinctly:

    Here’s the difference. Shaq is rich. The white man who signs his check is wealthy.
    Wealth is passed down from generation to generation. You can’t get rid of wealth. Rich is some shit you could lose with a crazy summer and a drug habit.
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