I'm thinking of these concepts, because I'm writing an article:

Some people are poor financially, but they act like ladies and gentlemen. In other words, they have kind hearts, big spirits, profound knowledge and beliefs, and many other things.

Some people are rich financially, and they have a lot of money, but they're far from being humanitarian, they won't help other people, they're not kind to their employees, they don't spend money for their family, etc. etc.

What I'm trying to convey is that monetary richness/poorness is something different to non-monetary states. And while they're correlated and effect each other, i.e., rich people are usually more modest, more knowledgeable, etc., but they can occur without the other one being present.

But I'm stuck at good terminology that can convey what I have in mind in the best way. I thought of rich vs. wealthy to denote that rich is someone who has money, but wealthy is who has lot's of good attributes, one of which might be money. However, I'm not content with them.

Can you help me picking out these four terms:

  1. Poor financially
  2. Poor non-financially
  3. Rich financially
  4. Rich non-financially
  • Have you seem this question: A synonym for 'rich' (varied) without connotations of wealth, which itself refers to another similar question?
    – TrevorD
    Aug 28, 2013 at 20:30
  • 3
    Granted, rich people are likely to be more knowledgeable, since they can afford better education, and often have richer and more varied life experiences. But why on earth do you think rich people are "usually more modest"? I suspect most "poor" people would think precisely the opposite! Aug 28, 2013 at 20:47

3 Answers 3


It sounds as though you are trying to write about the difference between wealth and nobility.

One who is poor financially is in poverty, or economically destitute, or bankrupt, though the last one is also a technical term. One who is poor in ethical qualities could be called inethical, immoral, abhorrent, crude, or any other number of words to describe one who is poorly-behaved. VERY specifically, if it is someone who doesn't share their money, you could say they are "cheap" or "a miser" or, more kindly, a "spendthrift" if they always spend as little as possible on their ventures.

Metaphorically, one who has no moral guidance or standards can also be called 'Bankrupt', though usually it is specifically called 'morally bankrupt' - meaning this would be two words, not one.

Financial richness has quite a few terms to describe it: wealthy, well-off, well-to-do, or one could be a millionaire, billionaire, or even trillionaire (All three being categorical). Whereas being rich in an ethical sense would be honorable, noble, decent, kind-hearted, and willing to share wealth would be generous, philanthropic/philanthropist, and charitable.

I believe the term you're looking to use depends on the exact nature you are trying to express in the person you're describing. Are they very willing to offer their wealth, even if they have little? Are they individuals who are incredibly wealthy, but who refuse to hand out their wealth? Or is it the grace of the person that you are judging? As in a poor individual who acts with dignity, or a wealthy individual who acts very cruel?

There is certainly a multitude of metaphors connecting wealth with virtue. Even "noble" has the connotation of being one of a higher-class and, therefore, wealthier than others (though this is a connotation, and in actuality nobles are not always wealthy). Rich in virtue, poor in manners, there's quite a lot of ways you can phrase what you want to say.


Jesus said it fairly well in a couple places in His Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).

In other words, people are rich when they recognize how truly impoverished they are in light of what they could be and are not, but would like to be. Put another way, people who have a humble estimation of their accomplishments are richer, ironically enough, than the folks who think they're just fine as they are, thank you very much!

"'Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions'" (Luke 12:15).

And just a few verses in Luke Chapter 12, Jesus has this to say,

So is the man [a fool] who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:21 NASB).

In other words, a truly rich life does not consist merely of having lots of stuff. That's where we need to distinguish between needs and greeds. Contentment with having the necessities of life (i.e., our needs are met) is far better than discontentment with never having enough (i.e., our greeds are never met)!

In conclusion, I would "translate" your four terms as Jesus would from his perspective:

  • Poor financially: Jesus's term for this would be "poor," literally, meaning possessing very little stuff
  • Poor non-financially: Jesus's term for this would be "deluded" or a "fool," since financial wealth, or an abundance of stuff, can become an idol, which is a God substitute and is worthless when death comes a knockin' at the door
  • Rich financially: Jesus's term for this would be "rich," literally, meaning having lots of stuff
  • Rich non-financially: Jesus's term for this would be both "poor in spirit" and "rich toward God."
  • Which Jesus is that? I don't think English existed in the days of the famous Jesus. ;)
    – JJJ
    Jul 5, 2019 at 7:03
  • @JJJ: I'm having difficulty picking up what you're laying down! Don Jul 6, 2019 at 3:13
  • You're basically quoting a translation as English did not exist as a language at the time those statements were made (if they were made at all in that way).
    – JJJ
    Jul 6, 2019 at 3:17
  • @JJJ: Sorry, but I'm still not picking up what you're laying down. Academics all over the world read English translations of books which have been considered classics for millennia. Take Aristotle's Rhetoric, for example. How many rhetoricians (myself included) can read Aristotle in 4th century BC Greek. Not many (and not I). I have difficulty dealing with the post-modern idea that religious texts--especially the Judeo-Christian Bible--are somehow in a different category than are academic texts going back in history even further. Believing Plato's dialogs were written by Plato takes more faith Jul 7, 2019 at 0:26
  • They are in a different category in the sense that they are in a different language. It would be the same as taking a German proverb and translating it word for word. That might be okay, depending on the proverb. You'd probably need to show that that translation caught on in English. The same can be said here, is your suggested word or idiom (and it's not clear what exactly your suggested word or idiom is, might want to highlight that too) generally used in English? If not, it might not be a good choice as people may not understand it outside the bible context.
    – JJJ
    Jul 7, 2019 at 0:44

Financially rich. is the collocation

Other suggestions

Financially poor, but rich in culture Financially rich, but lacking culture

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