15 “Rags to Riches” Similar Phrases

You have found yourself in situations where you just want to stop saying the overused ‘rags to riches’ phrase, but what can you do when it is the only idiom of its kind on your mind?! I was this ‘you’ some time in the past, and I know how it feels.

Consequently, you and I will be chewing the rag on a number of other ways to say ‘rags to riches’.

In no time, you would have learned at least fifteen new ways to express the same thoughts as ‘rags to riches’. Let’s see to it.

Rags to Riches Meaning

It is obvious that there is no obscurity in this phrase, as it is self-defined. But I would be labeled an unseasoned educator if I assume that you know the meaning of this phrase already.

The phrase rags to riches can be used to mean either of these two things: (of a person) Rising from poverty to wealth, or from an extremely low class to high heights of fame.

The former is the more commonly perceived interpretation.

Now that you know what rags to riches connotes, where or when it is used should not be much of a task to figure out.

If you have read, seen, or heard about the destitute who turned rich (often almost suddenly), be sure ‘rags to riches’ can come into play when talking about them.

I suppose the ultimate reason for knowing this word is so you can use it, so we are on the ‘How’. Depending on your choice, when used, the phrase ‘rags to riches’ may or may not be preceded by from.

For example: “Upon marrying American journalist Tonald, Mary went from rags to riches.” Or “The rags-to-riches tale accompanied Mary’s marriage to Tonald.” Either way, you’ve told someone that Mary was poor, but now well-to-do.

You’re now acquainted with the ‘rags to riches’ phrase. Let’s examine its counterparts.

15 Rags to Riches Similar Phrases

While the following phrases could be used in lieu of ‘rags to riches’, pay attention to the context of usage, as they will either correspond with rising to riches or fame – they’ll rarely go both ways.

  1. Climb the social ladder
  2. Be vertically mobile
  3. Climbing the corporate ladder
  4. From grass to grace
  5. Be on the way up
  6. Be on the ascent socially
  7. To make headway
  8. Thrown to spotlight
  9. Be socially mobile
  10. From poverty to riches
  11. Be upwardly mobile
  12. Make the Headlines
  13. Poverty to Wealth
  14. Greasing One’s Pocket
  15. Rise to Stardom
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Climb the social ladder

Unlike rags to riches, social climbing is used when people talk about the process where a person intends to go up, not after they are there.

Formally, social climbing is referred to as the attempt by a person or an organization to get to a higher class.

Remember that getting to a higher class means being in a more stable or sufficient financial state. One who is involved in this could be referred to as a social climber.

So for instance, you say, “No prosecutor is to be caught with a social climbing intent” when you wouldn’t use rags-to-riches.

Be vertically mobile

Being vertically mobile is a similar phrase that can be used to the “rags to riches” phrase. When we say vertical mobility, we are talking about moving from one social level to a higher one.

You may also get to hear about horizontal mobility, which is somewhat contrary to vertical. That has to do with revolving around the same status but not in one state.

It is horizontal when you leave one school for another, but maintain the same post (maybe as a teacher) in each of the schools. Or better still hold a similar position wherever you turn.

Vertical mobility has to do with a rather huge success, like ‘rags to riches’ implies.

Climbing the corporate ladder

Climbing the corporate ladder, as the phrase suggests, means getting advanced (from a position to a higher one) professionally.

The ‘corporate’ in this phrase should make you understand it is designed to be especially used in career terms.

This phrase is often used when the person being spoken about is in a competitive or large organization. So, such promotions are usually significant and worth attention.

From grass to grace

More like the exact phrase in consideration, moving from grass to grace may mean different things to two people.

But believe it, it is one of the best synonyms for rags-to-riches. It could be prosperity in social or financial status, too.

While grass means a place of nothing, you know grace is an attraction for favor. Thus, going from grass to grace most commonly means rising from poverty to richdom.

There is also the opposite of this, which is ‘grace to grace’. As you might have conjectured rightly, it means moving from a wealthy state to a poor one.

Be on the way up

Rags to Riches Similar Phrases

According to Macmillan Dictionary, to be on the way up is to be rising to a higher level or better position. It is the opposite of ‘be on the way down.’

The said phrase can be used in discussing relatively any subject; humans, ideas, etc.

Some words and phrases that can take the role of this phrase are: soar, raise, go through the roof, and step up. It is not hard to understand and replace this phrase.

Be on the ascent socially

Ascent as a word is to climb, and social ascent means any rise from poverty to exceptional wealth. It is concerned with the rise in reputation and social status.

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This is very much like ‘rags to riches’ because it entails progress; you go up and not down.

When using Social ascent in a sentence, bear in mind that it is a noun and not an adjective or some other qualifying word group.

To make headway

To make headway may not be directly related to rising from rags to riches, but they have got a thing or two in common. When a thing or person makes headway, they make progress or move forward.

Some words and phrases nearest in meaning to this are: move up, speed, propel, etc. You should get the concept of this phrase better with these simple synonyms.

Making headway may not be perceived as a phrase with the same intensity as rags to riches because it sounds warm.

“We should make headway with this project before a week or two has passed”, is one sentence example for the phrase.

Thrown to spotlight

This is usually the case with social status going high. If you are conversant with celebrities’ biographies, you must have heard this being used several times.

To be thrown into the spotlight is to come to the notice of the public. There is usually something that throws a person into the spotlight.

Sometimes it is because they are married to a celebrity or they did something unique.

So, usually, you’ll find this phrase in statements like, “Harvey Steve’s relationship with Johnson Dewey threw him to the spotlight.” – just to say that he became known for something.

You could also hear this phrase as, ‘being brought to the limelight/spotlight’ or ‘rise to fame.’

Be socially mobile

An advancement in the social-economic state of an organization, a family, or an individual’s life. Rising to a higher level in this case is not often based on people’s hard work – more on heritage.

People in this system have the fortune of leaving one position for a higher one in just a matter of time.

One phrase that comes very close to social mobility is economic mobility. Upward mobility and social ascent are some other examples.

From poverty to riches

Rags to Riches Similar Phrases

To go from poverty to riches is the literary meaning of rags to riches itself.

It is a common phrase people use when they don’t say ‘rags to riches.’

The reason this phrase is not so much in use should be credited to its simplicity. It is not something you also want to use if you don’t want to sound like a layperson for any reason.

Be upwardly mobile

When something is immobile, it is stationary; it doesn’t move. If something goes upward on the other hand, it makes progress.

As a result, Upward mobility is another simple term to describe the act of rising from a poor or an unknown state.

Upward mobility is more commonly used by business owners, especially economists. Everyone uses it, but it is most appropriately used with objects, theories, and ideas. Talk of how sales go from 10 to 1000 in the last 30 days, for instance.

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To Make Headlines

Rags to Riches Similar Phrases

This is a close phrase to ‘being thrown into the spotlight’. It may not be directly related to rags to riches, but I suppose you know that’s the case with synonymous words.

When a person is said to have made headlines, we know that they have done something that makes them go viral. Going viral as an unknown person may be equal to going from rags to riches.

The phrase is also more peculiar to biography or news journalists. Someone they are writing about has either been brought to the limelight or made headlines before he is a subject to discuss.

At the local level, people who can’t make headlines may also be said to have become the talk of the day, if they suddenly get popular.

From Poverty to Wealth

The strange thing is you might never think of this phrase. You remember going from poverty to riches? It fits hand in hand with ‘poverty to wealth’.

Although you may crave the rather strange phrases on our list, one reason you’d need to know phrases like this is that they can be easily remembered and used in sentences.

For example, you say, “It is no juicy journey to travel from poverty to wealth.” Some other phrases may not fit into sentences this easily.

Greasing One’s Pocket

To grease someone is figuratively to pay someone in exchange for a favor. To grease one’s pocket then is to attain higher heights by dubious means. It could also mean greasing one’s palm or feathering one’s own pockets.

Be cautious of how you use this – it is a rather informal phrase with a negative side. You want to avoid it in most cases. It implies that one has gotten richer, yet connotes they make much money illegally.

You use this when you want to say that a (perhaps) criminal or suspect has amassed so much. This way, you are more specific and people can understand you better.

So we say for instance, “Marusa greases his pocket with internet fraudulence.” not “Marusa has gone from grass to grace (or rags to riches).” Either way, Marusa has more money, but in the former, we know it’s illegal.

Rise to Stardom

Rags to Riches Similar Phrases

To ‘rise to stardom’ is to become famous almost suddenly. The fame follows an extraordinary or award-winning action.

Whether a person rises, zooms, or shoots to stardom, doesn’t alter the fact they became famous along the line. Zoom and shoot are some other words that could equally stand in for the rise in this phrase.

“Following the publication of ‘Our Thousand Tips’, DeeMedia rose to stardom” is a good example of this phrase.

Parting Words

The phrase rags to riches should not tempt you into picturing some kind of tattered or worn-out items of clothing.

As is with all other phrases on our list, you’re either being told of a person’s financial or social status when you hear ‘Rags to Riches.’

In conclusion, although advancement and betterment are single words and not phrases, they can very much play the role of ‘rags to riches’ too.

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