Sayings and idioms are essential aspects of English that we must understand to further our grasp of daily conversation. Sometimes, funny-sounding ones like “eat the rich” can crop up, and it’s good to know what it means and how to use it.
What Does “Eat The Rich” Mean?
The meaning of “eat the rich” is that when poor people have to do what it takes to survive, there will come a time when they “eat” the rich. It doesn’t mean to eat the people, and the full quote is, “when the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.” It means that if the rich people abuse their wealth and hoard money and food, the poor will inevitably come and steal their money and stocks to feed themselves and their families.
Who Qualifies As “The Rich”?
When talking about “the rich” in this manner, it’s essential to know a little more about the quote’s origin. It came about during the French Revolution (which we’ll get further into in the next section).
However, “the rich” are considered “the aristocracy,” which is attributed to any upper-class citizens who own land or are susceptible to royal patronage.
Nowadays, these things aren’t the only telling signs of “the rich.” You can find “the rich” based on who has the most substantial wealth and income.
They often dress more lavishly and spend more tightly (even though they have more money to spend).
The poor can also be attributed to anyone who doesn’t consider themselves “well-off.” Most of the time, “the poor” are lower to middle-class citizens in need of a helping hand.
What Is The Origin Of “Eat The Rich”?
The original phrase is “when the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.”
It was said by one of the leading figures of the French Revolution, Jean Jacques Rousseau.
It came about when there was a widespread famine in France. During a famine, the rich are treated well and given the food they need to survive. However, the poor are left to fend for themselves and often die out.
One of the significant contributors to the famine was the increase in the price of grain at the market. Many people began to hoard grain, but it favored the rich greatly.
If you were a poor farmer, you would have to sell your grain straight after your harvest to get any money in to provide for your family. The rich people would then come along and buy the grain from the farmers at low prices and wait for the cost of grain to increase in value. They’d then sell it back when the price peaked because they had other methods of receiving an income while they waited.
Naturally, a divide began to appear between the rich and the poor.
The rich had the grain, and the poor had no food.
Around this time, the quote “eat the rich” began to surface to try and intimidate the rich into giving a little back to society. While the quote doesn’t mean the poor will physically eat the rich people, it does mean they’ll do whatever they need to when it comes to surviving.
Examples Of How To Use The Phrase
Now let’s look at some examples of how to use the phrase.
It’s an old-fashioned phrase, so you might not see it come up all that often. Still, we thought it would be wise to show you how best to use it in a sentence. That way, you might feel inclined to use it yourself once you understand a little more about when it is appropriate to use.
- If you can’t afford anything nice from the shop, you could always eat the rich.
- Look at how they dress compared to us. The poor really do need to eat the rich.
- They’re always talking about eating the rich, but I don’t understand why. We give society all the money it needs!
- Tax the rich! Eat the rich! Make sure they don’t get away with their selfishness.
- You can’t eat the rich unless you’re willing to go toe-to-toe with them.
- Do you think I don’t want to eat the rich? I’ve been poor my whole life. It’s time I take a stand.
- I need to eat the rich if I want to get ahead in life.
- Seriously, when are the poor going to rise to eat the rich? I’m sick of the growing divide in taxation and politics!
- If I could, I would eat the rich. They don’t deserve all that wealth.
See how in each of these examples, the rich are seen as evil?
You can’t use a phrase like “eat the rich” without showing distaste towards the group of people known as “the rich.” Typically, we use it when people want to start a protest or uprising against something in society that they believe to be unjust.
Related phrases and sayings are a great way to learn how to say “eat the rich” (without actually saying it).
This is good for two reasons. You can give yourself more variety in speaking, or you can familiarize yourself with another saying if you’re not entirely confident about what “eat the rich” means.
- Down with the aristocracy!
This is another saying that comes from the olden days. It was used to try and bring down the aristocracy (or the rich) in another way. People would fight against the higher powers, trying to bring balance and equality back into their society.
- Tax the rich.
This is a new saying that’s grown in relevance lately. It’s common for left-wing US politicians to use this saying when they say “eat the rich” less aggressively. The idea encourages the government to tax wealthier people more money to give money back to the poor.
- Bridge the gap
This phrase refers to putting a bridge between the wealth gap. There’s a massive divide between rich and poor in the world, and this saying encourages us to put a bridge between the two so that it isn’t as large.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.