I think opportunist would be the word for someone who wants to get into relationships with rich people so that they can get rich, but that word is negative and can be used for other situations as well. Do we have a more accurate word for it?

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    Honestly, I think opportunist is much more positive than the other word I can think of... gold-digger,
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 7:11
  • What is the etymological origin of the use of the phrase "gold-digger" to mean a relationship-wise opportunistic person? I think it originated in idioms that existed for hundreds of years in east asia. Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:44
  • *Upwardly mobile"
    – 7caifyi
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 13:15
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    Why would you look for a positive word for something so inherently negative? "So that they can get rich" as the reason to frequent someone wealthy? And you want to put a positive spin on that? Why?
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 15:28
  • inherently negative? what country do you live in (if you don't mind my asking). I can't imagine anyone making the most important life, family and business decision (marriage) without considering their partner's education, achievements, whether they are perhaps massively in debt, have a job, rich, not rich, etc ...can you imagine someone getting married in a kind of .. abstract .. way because of ... actually because of what? physical looks? I can't even fully parse the concept.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 11:43

4 Answers 4


A social climber may suggest the idea and doesn't necessarily have negative connotations:

  • a person who attempts to gain a higher social standing.

  • a person who tries to gain acceptance to a social stratum above the one he or she currently occupies.

The Free Dictionary

  • 4
    But OP specified getting into relationships, which is why Catija suggested a worse word. Social climbing is not so much about bed as about addresses, children's schools, clothes and so forth. It's not even about getting rich as much as about perceptions.
    – David Pugh
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 7:44
  • 2
    Social hierarchy is not only determined by wealth. Though the latter has an undoubted part to play, there is often tension between the ideas of wealth and social elitism. Our language can reflect this.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:13
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    Yes, but social climbing has a lot to do with money, in my opiniom.
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 8:16
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    And there is the concept of striver as in Strivers' Row, nicknamed for those who worked hard to better themselves and live in more elegant housing.
    – bib
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 13:08
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    @Joe, I would say social climber is predominantly negative, but not always, and and the word social speaks directly to a network of relationships.
    – ScotM
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 19:54

Ambitious is suitable:


1 Having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed:

If your measure of success is wealth, then hooking up with a rich person seems like a reasonable strategy. Like the OP and other answers provided, it can elicit either positive or negative connotations, and it can easily be applied to various situations. The history of ambitious connects it firmly to the notion of relationships:

(adj.) late 14c., from Latin ambitiosus "going around to canvass for office," from ambitio (see ambition).

mid-14c., from Middle French ambition or
directly from ambitionem (nominative ambitio) "a going around," especially to solicit votes,
hence "a striving for favor, courting, flattery; a desire for honor, thirst for popularity,"
noun of action from past participle stem of ambire "to go around" (see ambient).


As you say "gold digger" is wholly negative, and is often used, by for example, people who foolishly married badly with no regard to education, economic status etc.

I don't have a more accurate term (as you ask) which is neutral.

However, there are two terms which are commonly used in this situation. These are "practical" and "sensible".

She was very practical about marriage.

Note: as Scott has pointed out, add "ambitious" to this list.

These three words CAN BE used in a straight, neutral way. "My daughter made a sensible marriage." "Fortunately Annie made a practical marriage instead of getting pregnant at 17 to that boy with the motorbike."

However, note that indeed the three terms can be used "with a wink" as euphemisms, to imply the same sort of gold-digger-language disapproval.

(I mean all of this in typical AmE or BrE ... of course in many countries arranged marriage, etc., is the norm and it would seem bizarre to marry for purely emotional reasons.)

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    Practical is a too generic term...
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 11:47
  • 1
    It seems to me the euphemism "practical" is a positive way to express this concept, but the context would have to set the stage for this meaning.
    – Good A.M.
    Commented Jun 9, 2015 at 19:57
  • Hi Josh, it's very common to use that term to describe such a person. It's exactly the word used "in air-quotes" in the situation.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 3:46
  • GoodAM - excellent point, like a euphemism
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 3:54
  • Your answer is focused on a woman making a practical choice before deciding to marry someone, but the OP never mentions marriage, he asks about someone who wants to have relationships with wealthy people. You've interpreted the question a little too narrowly. ScotM's answer is closer, but I don't particularly like any of the answers posted so far
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 10, 2015 at 4:22

If the OP is looking for a positive word, may I suggest a pragmatist

someone who is pragmatic, that is to say, someone who is practical and focused on reaching a goal. A pragmatist usually has a straightforward, matter-of-fact approach and doesn't let emotion distract her.

or an enterprising individual:

having or showing initiative and resourcefulness.

It's worth noting that two users assumed the OP was referring to a category of women whose sole objective is to offer sexual favours in return for money, or to marry a wealthy man. While no one is denying this does happen; it is, as Joe Blow clearly stated in his answer, a very practical approach to improving one's economic status; men are not immune to using sex as a means of obtaining prosperity. Gigolos

  1. A man who has a continuing sexual relationship with and receives financial support from a usually older woman

and toy boys

  1. the much younger male lover of an older woman

are but two (usually derogatory) expressions, reserved for men who consciously exploit their youth, and physical appearance in order to receive generous financial rewards.

But for anybody who has no discernible talent, lacks qualifications and a strong work ethic, they will look at marriage with a critical and objective eye. Youth and physical beauty are inexorably intertwined, a pragmatic and determined individual knows that time is of essence, and will attempt to snare their ‘prey’ before they have reached their forties. In addition, many view that marriage is synonymous with a "business contract", there are prenups which must be signed by both parties before a marriage can be undertaken.

Any couple who brings personal or business assets to the marriage can benefit from a prenup. The most basic of these contracts lists an inventory of premarital assets that in the event of a divorce will remain the property of their original owner.

Conversely, I would say a person who wishes to mix in the right circles, which often include affluent people; celebrities; business men and women; in order to widen their social contacts and build a ‘profitable’ network, is an enterprising and astute individual.

  1. of keen penetration or discernment; sagacious:
    an astute analysis.
  2. clever; cunning; ingenious; shrewd:

This type of pragmatism is deeply ingrained, especially in Europe

Almost two thirds believe that social connections are still more important than “what you know” in determining how people advance in life, it found. […] Just over than three quarters of those polled said they believed family background significantly influences an individual's chances of doing well in life. And 65 per cent agreed that fundamentally "who you know matters more than what you know" in Britain today.

Source: The Daily Telegraph

The mantra

It's not what you know, but who you know

is as true today in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.

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