Is there any difference between someone being wealthy and someone being rich?

For instance, is Bill Gates rich or wealthy? Or maybe he is both. I don't get the subtle difference if any.

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Wealthy and Rich are both synonymous in terms of money. Both mean "having a great deal of money and assets". So you can interchangebly use them to convey Bill Gates is rich.

However, you can see rich has various usages other than abundance of money. They can be found in the Oxford Dictionary hyperlink I have attached.

  • 'Wealthy' is a fancier term for 'rich', and also rarer. – Mitch Feb 8 '13 at 18:59
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    I disagree that rich and wealthy are synonyms when applied to money; you can be rich without being wealthy. Rich simply means having a lot of money whereas wealthy applies a lot of accumulated money in assets, etc. If you walk into a million pound job tomorrow you can rightly be described as rich; but you will not be wealthy until you've crystallised that money into investments, big houses, etc. – Jack Aidley Mar 5 '13 at 17:02
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    Wealth is a more specific term, referring specifically to the value of one's assets. Rich is more general and can mean different things in different contexts. It can be synonymous with wealthy, but it can also refer to having a large income (as @JackAidley mentioned) or it may refer to living an opulent lifestyle. Rich is also more frequently used in reference to non-monetary things. – Era Dec 4 '15 at 18:39

There's also implications of social class in "Wealthy" that aren't as common with "Rich".

In other words:

  • If you say that Bill Gates is rich, you are saying he has lots of money.

  • If you say that Bill Gates is wealthy, you are saying that he is rich, & that he grew up with lots of money.

A thesaurus at YourDictionary.com explains the difference as:

rich is the general word for one who has more money, possessions, or income-producing property than is necessary to satisfy normal needs; wealthy adds to this connotation of grand living, influence in the community, a tradition of richness, etc.

William Safire, in a 1990 column, puts it as, "a rich family has to wait until its money ages before it becomes a wealthy family."

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    so a self-made man is not wealthy? – Jonathan de M. Feb 6 '13 at 7:19
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    I don't find anything wrong with saying, "Theodore came from a rich family," or, "Linda became wealthy after she won the lottery." I'm wondering if you can include a reference to a dictionary that would support your assertion here; I couldn't find one. – J.R. Feb 6 '13 at 9:07
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    +1 @J.R.: I agree with this criticism. The only connotation I see that distinguishes rich from wealthy is the value that the speaker/writer places on having a lot of money. Bill Gates is rich and Bill Gates is wealthy, but neither sentence tells us whether he grew up in a poor, a middle-class, an upper middle-class, or a rich family. – user264 Feb 6 '13 at 14:47
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    [thesaurus.yourdictionary.com/rich] (YourDictionary Thesaurus), quoting Webster's New World Dictionary puts the difference as: "rich is the general word for one who has more money, possessions, or income-producing property than is necessary to satisfy normal needs; wealthy adds to this connotation of grand living, influence in the community, a tradition of richness, etc.;" A New York Times [nytimes.com/1990/11/11/magazine/on-language-isn-t-it-rich.html] (article) by William Safire puts it as "a rich family has to wait until its money ages before it becomes a wealthy family". – David Ross Feb 6 '13 at 18:56
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    @David: That's excellent supporting information. Just my opinion, but I think the community as a whole would benefit more if you edited that information into your answer, as opposed to trying to cram it into an appended comment. I hope you don't mind that I took the liberty to do just that. – J.R. Feb 9 '13 at 22:53

In terms of money, rich is used to describe someone who has a certain amount of money/liquid capital (it's relative, however much money makes you 'rich' in my eyes, might not necessarily make you 'rich' in the eyes of Bill Gates). Wealthy is also used in this way, however it is commonly used to describe someone who is beyond rich with just money alone (liquid cash, businesses, investments, etc) so to give an example, your favorite musician might be rich, but Bill Gates or Donald Trump would be considered wealthy.

There are some good answers here, but I'd like to point out yet another aspect.

Wealthy may suggest a person who has enough money for their needs.
At the same time, rich may connote someone who is demonstrating their money (sometimes, in an exaggerate way).

In this regard, I would say, Bill Gates, who's spending a lot of his earnings to charity, is wealthy, while the person from an image below is rich.

Rich

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    That image looks more ostentatious than rich. – J.R. Feb 9 '13 at 22:57

There is a big difference. When I was younger I thought they were the same, until Magic Johnson gave a interview. He stated that there is a big difference between the two. Even though I do not remember what he said word-for-word, I will always remember the gist of what he said. To paraphrase:

Wealthy is being able to provide for your family generations after your death (sustained money) and being rich is short-lived.

I am 33 years old I have never forgotten that. Me, personally, I want to be wealthy. Please GOD I have been praying and LORD I beg you make me wealthy, no matter what. Amen

  • This more an anecdote than an answer. – jinawee Jul 9 '14 at 19:52

There isn't any difference. They're the same thing.

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    They're the same thing in this context. After all, Tevye appears to use them interchangeably: If I were a rich man / Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum / All day long I'd biddy biddy bum / If I were a wealthy man. However, I wouldn't go so far as to say they are the "same thing," because I'd probably not talk about a wealthy sauce, a wealthy gas mixture, a wealthy voice, or wealthy language, but I could use rich to describe any of those things. – J.R. Feb 6 '13 at 9:13

While the term rich is used for all the people who have gathered a lot of money, I tend to use wealthy for the people who have done good deeds, have gained popularity and have gathered wealth. The latter is much more "royal".

That was a little confused than we think.Actually I think "rich" mean have a lot of money and possession.In this, situation rich and wealthy are the same.In mental situation it may not be the same.

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