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I saw in a dictionary this expression:

well off is like: rich

My question is: is it more common to use "well off" or "rich" in the USA?

Example:

they must be well off to buy a house there

or

they must be rich to buy a house there

Both are correct I know, but what is more common or best to explain people that have a lot money?

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    "well off" is a euphemism for "rich". Nov 25, 2018 at 21:07
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    "More common" is a useless metric here, as the terms will be used differently in different contexts, as might wealthy or high net worth or well-off or affluent and so on. In my social circles, where drawing attention to someone's economic status would be somewhat gauche, we wouldn't use such terms at all, only obliquely comment that someone is comfortable or doing all right for herself or some such.
    – choster
    Nov 27, 2018 at 0:10

1 Answer 1

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In my experience, as an American, rich is much more commonly used.

But there is a slight difference as well. The one I choose to use depends on the implied meaning I want to communicate.

"Rich" always implies extravagance but is used for a wide range of wealth.

"Wow, they must be rich."

"Well off" implies the lower range of wealth. One is well off when they are not struggling with debt and have more than they need.

"Don't worry about them, they are well off now."

But those are only the basic uses of the two, without any adjectives or emphasis in tone.

For example:

"He is pretty rich." -low to mid level wealth
"She is crazy rich." -high level wealth

"He might not think so but he is well off." -low level wealth
"Listen, she is well off." (spoken with emphasis) -mid to high level wealth

Emphasizing well off like that is often used to speak modestly but mean very rich in certain situations where you don't want to say it directly.

Note: When I say "low level wealth" I still mean wealthy, such as upper-middle-class. But of course it is also subjective, considering someone else as rich or well off depends on your own viewpoint and situation with money.

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