The Meaning of Eat The Rich: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what the term eat the rich means? This guide will give you all of the knowledge you need on the phrase eat the rich, including its meaning, origin, sentence examples, and more!

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What does the phrase eat the rich mean?

According to All The Tropes, the phrase eat the rich is used as a slogan or battle cry by millennials and Gen Z to vilify the inordinately wealthy or other rich people. This phrase is used as a metaphor to advocate for an inter-class uprising, revolut, or revolution amongst the lower and working classes against the corrupt upper class. People are not actually planning to become cannibals by eating the rich, the phrase is simply a metaphor – for most!

As the economic divide has grown wider and wider in the past years, people have begun using the phrase eat the rich, notably in memes on social media sites like Twitter and TikTok, per Junkee. The phrase has become so popular that people can even buy merchandise with the phrase eat the rich on it. The internet marketplace website Red Bubble sells over 7000 different items with the phrase eat the rich, from stickers to shirts. The phrase is commonly associated with leftist, anti-capitalist ideologies in opposition to the existence of billionaires.

In recent years, people have begun to use the phrase eat the rich in association with not only the millionaire and billionaire class, but for when people show subtle signs of wealth. For example, someone might say that their family isn’t rich, they’re “comfortable.” To this, someone could reply, “Only the wealthy say that, eat the rich.” This has been expanded to joke about small luxuries as well, like the idea of a common middle-class item, a “garage fridge” or a Spotify premium account. The phrase eat the rich is used not only to comment on wealth disparity, but power disparity, notably between what is known as the 1% – a few billionaires who seemingly control everything – and the lower and middle classes who do not have any say in the way of the world. 

What is the origin of the phrase eat the rich?

According to GQ and The Vanderbilt Hustler, the phrase eat the rich was born out of the French Revolution. Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau coined the phrase. Initially, Rousseau stated, “When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.” He used this phrase to comment on those in power, notable King Louis XVI and the aristocracy. People were starving in the streets, and he used to quote to state that the people will rise up and take over the ruling class one they are fed up with living with no food while the upper class lives a life of luxury with little care for the lower class.

During this time in the French Revolution, the king had been executed and The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen had been passed, but the lower class was still literally starving from a lack of food. Rousseau thus coined his famous term, and that phrase still resonates with people around the world today.

This phrase has made a recent comeback as the wage and income gap in the United States has grown. Per Pew Research, the wealth gap between America’s richest and poorest people has doubled since 1989. During the Coronavirus pandemic, Amazon founder slash billionaire Jeff Bezos gained over $23 billion in profit and net worth while over 40 million other people have lost their jobs. This has caused many people to try and boycott Amazon, but because they are often the lowest price and fastest possible delivery, it is the lower class who needs to continue to use it. The phrase eat the rich has re-emerged in response to these dynamics. 

How can the phrase eat the rich be used in a sentence?

The phrase eat the rich is used when people are discussing income disparity or when someone does something that they do not realize makes them come off as out of touch with the lower income classes. This phrase can be used at protests or on social media, but can also be used in conversation. In this example, Kayla and Matt are talking about Matt’s recent vacation.

Kayla: How was Hawaii?!

Matt: It was awesome. But oh my God, I can’t believe I didn’t tell you. I saw some woman wearing an eat the rich shirt in first class. She got on and off the plane first, had private escorts, and still thought she could rock that shirt. So out of touch.

Kayla: Oh my goodness, that’s horrific. To be fair, you were just on a vacation to Hawaii. So I think we should eat you too.

Matt: Hey! I was sitting back in economy class!

Kayla: To an all inclusive resort on the coast of Maui! If we eat the rich, it includes you!

Matt: I guess that’s fair.

Here, Matt and Kayla use the phrase eat the rich to discuss people of a higher level of income.

Overall, the phrase eat the rich is a battle cry used by progressives to protest against the wage and wealth gap in America and around the world. People use this phrase, which was originally coined by Jean Jacques Rousseau during the French Revolution, to comment on the disparity in income between ultra-billionaires like the richest man in America Jeff Bezos and America’s lowest income families, a gap which has doubled since the late 1980s.