I'm looking for a one-to-two word adjective that describes a person that was once rich, but after several unfortunate events has much less money. However, the person is not suffering, but the person is no longer living an affluent life.

The word is going to be used in a title: [Adjective] Author.


21 Answers 21


"Formerly rich" or even "once rich" as used the question would do the job, either of these would imply that they're no longer rich.

e.g. The formerly rich author now lives in a modest home.

  • 20
    I think "once-rich author" (note the dash) is the best answer so far. Other suggestions imply that the author is poverty-stricken, broke, or bankrupt, like: Impoverished, ruined, beggared, distressed, insolvent, bankrupt, and bust. But that's not what the question described: "the person is not suffering, but the person is no longer living an affluent life". Also, all of those suggestions describe a current condition of poverty, whereas the question seeks mainly to reference a previous condition of wealth. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 11:59
  • 3
    The question title specifically asks "once rich but now poor". So the title and body aren't aligned. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 18:11
  • @MichaelRichardson Aren't the titles of many StackExchange questions misaligned with the question body, at least in some sense? Anyway, I've been poor but never poverty-stricken, so the title does not necessarily contradict the main question.
    – David K
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 0:48


reduced to poverty

  • an impoverished family/community (M-W)

Here is a French caricature from the 18th century with the title

Caricature of the impoverished author (L'Auteur tombé)

enter image description here

And in his book, Closing the Gate: Race, Politics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act (2000), Andrew Gyory writes:

A third hand found at the table was Mark Twain, whom Stewart hired as his secretary while the impoverished author struggled to finish his first book, The Innocents Abroad.


"Ruined" can be used in this sense.


bankrupt[ed], impoverish[ed]

ruined by stock speculation

  • 7
    The question says "the person is not suffering". If someone is ruined, I'd assume they're suffering as a result. Although some people may use it as hyperbole -- if someone was very rich and drops into the middle class, they might call themselves ruined.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 15:53

You may find beggared a useful term.

beggared. past participle of beggar
beggar verb
to make a person or organization, etc. extremely poor

Cambridge goes on to give examples, among which we find:

His parents beggared themselves, grew old before their time, striving with every nerve to clear and vindicate their son's name.
• The case may go on for some days and the person who loses may find himself almost beggared.
• To-day they are beggared and penniless.

Hence, in Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens Gutenberg we find the following passage that refers to the many people who are about to discover they have been impoverished by the financial consequences of the death of Mr Merdle:

"... if all those hundreds and thousands of beggared people who were yet asleep could only know, as they two spoke, the ruin that impended over them, what a fearful cry against one miserable soul would go up to Heaven!"

  • 7
    The word sounds old-fashioned to me. But more to the point, it means to have become extremely poor, penniless, broke, ruined, or bankrupt. That's not the meaning asked for. The request is to describe someone who was previously very wealthy, but is no longer - not that they are destitute. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 11:50
  • Old-fashioned or not, @El
    – dsclose
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 6:37

I would add to the good choices already put forward,


lowered in condition, power, or dignity; abased.

Not quite as specific, but descriptive of a person who has been brought low.


You might consider the reverse of the popular idiom from rags to riches, defined as:

from a state of having very little money to a state of having a lot of money

In your case, the author went from riches to rags, as used, for instance, in this NBC article:

Riches-to-rags stories: Fallen billionaires. Everyone is always talking about how the rich are getting richer — and it’s usually true. But not always.


I know that you are looking for a one-or-two word adjectival construct, but I think that you will find that the absolute best expression for your exact meaning is "come down in the world". It captures your intent exactly, for which reason I post it here as an answer, hopefully useful to you or to another with similar needs.

Go/Come down in the world:

to have less money or a worse social position than you had before: They used to live in a big house with lots of servants, but they've come down in the world since then.

To use it in your intended title would require reworking it as an appositive or an aside, but could be done.

Perhaps something like... The Author, (Recently) Come Down in the World


Other answers have several suggestions, but most suggest the person is now poor, rather than merely brought down to the same level as the rest of us. Reduced is a possibility, though The Reduced Author does not make it clear that it is the Author's finances that are reduced. Straitened is another possibility; the word is so often used in the expression straitened circumstances that it may be associated with reduced finances in a title like The Straitened Author.

  • 4
    That would also work as ... did the author mean to say straitened, or straightened, or .... the author has good posture? OHHHHHH, they're in dire straits... I get it.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 16:24
  • I haven't heard "reduced" by itself used this way, but "reduced to poverty" is.
    – Ray
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 16:00
  • 2
    @Ray "reduced circumstances" (or "much reduced circumstances") as an euphemism. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 16:32

If you are looking for something more formal and sociological, downwardly mobile is another possible term, an adjectival phrase, with the equivalent noun phrase downward mobility. Collins dictionaries identifies it as a sociology term, defining it as "experiencing downward mobility". Mobility is a sociological term meaning "movement within or between classes and occupations". Hence it refers to someone moving from a higher sociological class (e.g. the upper class) to a lower class (e.g. the working class).

The phrase is found in academic works: "The Downwardly Mobile", a chapter in Jessi Streib, Privilege Lost, Oxford Academic, 2020.

But you can also see it in publications for a general audience: Lynn Steger Strong, "We're broke, not poor: how I became downwardly mobile", The Guardian (London), Tue 3 Dec 2019. A quote:

According to a 2016 study on social mobility, 50% of Americans born in the 1980s are set to end up worse off than their parents were. Downward mobility is a relatively new thing for middle-class white people in this country.

  • 1
    Downward mobility refers to a possibility (even likelihood) in the future, not having already suffered from the loss.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 15:54

"Reduced circumstances" is the closest phrase I know of, although that does not work well for your title. "Formerly wealthy", "formerly rich", "formerly prosperous", or "newly poor" might work better, but seem fairly dull to me. Rather than describing the author's current state, though, the title might be punchier if the adjective describes how they arrived in that state: "profligate", "unlucky", "betrayed", "lazy".

  • "Reduced circumstances" is simply the correct answer.
    – dsclose
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 6:39
  • "formerly prosperous" - Deprosperised - if a "Buffy-speak" word will do...
    – komodosp
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 13:39
  • this is the correct answer. BUT the OP wants "_ _ author"
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:28

If you are interested in dated words you could use distressed. The advantage is that distressed meant exactly what you are trying to express.

If you want confirmation of this look at the origins of the charity called Elizabeth Finn Care. As the website says Elizabeth Finn Care was originally set up in the late nineteenth century by Elizabeth Finn and her daughter Constance as The Distressed Gentlefolk's Aid Association to help people who were originally more or less wealthy but were in what were then known as reduced circumstances.

  • 2
    This is not right in the sense that 'distressed' only expresses the 'poor' part. To mean 'poor but formerly rich', you cannot omit the 'gentlefolk' part.
    – Martino
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 16:56
  • @Martino I disagree. You can describe people of any social standing as 'distressed' in this sense but it does imply that they were formally wealthier than they were. You could talk about 'a distressed stonemason' for example, either because the work had dried up or he had been injured but you couldn't really describe a person who was born in poverty and had never managed to get out of that state as 'distressed'.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 11:07

There are words to describe this status of being an individual (or of a family) that had been rich in the past but is now - relatively, at least - poor.

Peter's "reduced" (or "now reduced") is one. As is "erstwhile", "diminished", "fallen", "nouveau pauvre" (if you don't object to a French phrase), etc.

You tend to find these epithets in magazine articles, historical or biographical books on such people.

  • I immediately thought of the opposite of "noveau riche", and found it's actually been coined at least as early as 1984, in a book title. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouveau_riche#Nouveau_pauvre What makes the original request difficult is the qualification that they are not suffering. As a play on words, "noveau pauvre" is probably not implying a state of misery but also quite obscure. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 14:26

Just to add to the answer by @fev.

If you are referring to a company or organisation, then insolvent is generally the preferred adjective to "impoverished". Cambridge dictionary provides the following definition:


Definition: (especially of a company) unable to pay what you owe because you do not have enough money

Example Sentence: "When it discovered the loans could not be repaid, the bank became insolvent."

The words "bankrupt" and "bust" can be used as (informal) synonyms.

Note: none of these words are exclusive to corporations and so it is perfectly legitimate to use them to describe an individual (or individuals) as well.

Therefore, the title could be "Bankrupt [insert author's name]" to refer back to your specific scenario

  • An alternative form of "[gone] bust" is "busted": dictionary.com/browse/busted Commented Jan 24, 2023 at 21:27
  • 4
    Note that insolvent does not necessarily imply previous wealth, only a present lack thereof, and so may not work in this context.
    – user770884
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 0:03
  • This is mostly used for businesses, not people.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 15:55
  • Yes, that is mentioned in my answer @Barmar
    – FD_bfa
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 15:56
  • 1
    Insolvent implies you are in trouble, which leads to suffering (at least suffering calls from creditors). The question says the person is not suffering, just not affluent any more.
    – David K
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 21:10

You could consider "déclassé", for which Merriam-Webster gives the first definition as:

fallen or lowered in class, rank, or social position

From the definition and examples in French the word clearly can be and is used to refer to persons whose social status has been downgraded, however in English usually it appears to be more often used to refer to activities or behaviors that are associated with the lower classes.

  • 1
    I use this all the time
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:28

For that context, perhaps "down on his luck":


Short of cash or credit. A nineteenth-century description of financial embarrassment, usually of a temporary nature, this term implies, with down, that the person so described at one time had more resources. Thus Thackeray wrote, “The Chevalier was. . . . to use his own picturesque expression, ‘down on his luck’” (Pendennis, 1849).

While it may have been coined in the nineteenth century, it still has currency to this day. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=down+on+his+luck suggests it peaked in usage around 1900, and again recently.

  • 1
    It sort of implies that the person once had more...but a lot of the time it's used to describe someone who seems or acts like they maybe once had more, even though they didn't actually. ("chronically down-on-their-luck"). Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 16:38
  • 1
    @TobySpeight OP isn't really asking for a single word...in the OP they specify "one to two words" but also that it's to be used in a title. Technically this is four but "Down On Their Luck Author" does fit well in a title. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 15:08
  • 1
    (Basically OP got the tags wrong, and this is a reasonable answer for the question as actually asked.) Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 15:09
  • 1
    "Down-at-heel" is an alternate phrasing which I find more evocative despite (or perhaps owing to) its allusive character.
    – S. G.
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 18:44
  • 1
    Nice one, @S.G., and with the hyphenation it's arguably closer to the single-word tag, too :) Make it an answer? (or feel free to edit mine, but imho you should get the credit!) Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 8:25

As many answers here may imply too-far a fall from riches, perhaps:

  • Newly Middle-Class
  • Recently Reduced

If it was not a recent change to their status, I like:

  • Once-Wealthy

...as it gives a subtle alliteration that is not obvious in the spelling.


You could make use of statistical terminology.

For example if the move were rich to average wealth, something like "financially normalised" might make sense, although it's probably not not going to make the most exhilarating title unless it's in a specialist domain.


"The word is going to be used in a title: [Adjective] Author."

For this difficult request, the only thing I can come up with is: "The Once-Rich Writer"

Remembering that Clever Copywriters Always Alliterate, The once-rich writer happily alliterates, but "The Once-Rich Author" is also ok.

  • The Diminished Author
  • The Unclovered Author (as in, "having lost one's four-leaf clover")
  • The Unfortuned Author (not unfortunate, unfortuned)
  • The Debased Author
  • The Dilatant Author (more esoteric, this one. Dilatant describes the process of becoming more viscous or solid due to stress... I.E., less liquid... as in having lost financial liquidity... OK, it's a stretch)
  • The Disparaged Author

One possibility is Dissipated which describes one who has fallen victim to the usual temptations of life. This was used to describe Benjamin Franklin when he was older and had spent several years in France. He was no longer the industrious hard worker he had started out to be but a great party goer and womanizer.


The Usurped Author

One of the definitions of usurp is:

to take the place of by or as if by force (Webster)

another is:

To use and assume the coat of arms of another person.(Wiktionary)

Given the general association of this word with royalty, using this word will imply:

  1. That the author was once high in the world (second definition)
  2. That he was supplanted and is no longer high in the world.
  3. Given that historically a usurped king would be significantly better off than a peasant (assuming he escaped), this use would also imply that the author is still doing ok and while not what he once was isn't struggling.

I also think it makes a pretty good book title.

  • 2
    "Usurped" kind of implies that someone else took the author's place somehow, which isn't what the OP was asking. (That might be the reason for the downvote)
    – komodosp
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 13:41
  • Well since he is an author we can assume he was supplanted by other authors. If that isn't obvious enough I can edit my answer. Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 8:16
  • As I said in my answer we should also keep in mind that the asker is looking for a book title and not the precise technical word. Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 1:03

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