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1. a large amount of money and valuable material possessions
2. the state of being rich
3. Economics all goods and services with monetary, exchangeable, or productive value


the value of the resources possessed by an individual or a society (compare CAPITAL).

An important issue in any society is the distribution of wealth within it. Usually, in all but the simplest of societies, the ownership of wealth is unequal, and the degree to which this is so is an important differentiating feature of types of society. In the modern world advanced industrial societies generally manifest less inequality of income than less developed societies, but inequalities in the distribution of wealth remain great, although these are often difficult to quantify, given the tendency of wealth to go often unreported – e.g. at the time of death -because it is subject to taxation.

The massive inequality in wealth which exists between societies – especially between FIRST and THIRD WORLD societies – is, of course, also a major feature distinguishing between nation states in the modern WORLD SYSTEM, and a major aspect of the potential economic and political instability of this system.


See also Luxury, Treasure.
Weaving (See SEWING and WEAVING.)
Abu Dhabi
Persian Gulf sheikdom overflowing with petrodollars. [Mid-East Hist.: NCE, 9]
Big Daddy
wealthy Mississippi landowner of humble origins. [Am. Lit.: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof]
black and gold
symbol of financial prosperity. [Heraldry: Jobes, 222]
traditional symbol of wealth. [Plant Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 167]
Cave of Mammon
abode of god of riches. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]
ancient Greek city; one of wealthiest and most powerful. [Gk. Hist. and Myth.: Zimmerman, 69]
Lydian king; name became synonymous with riches. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 69]
rich man who ignored poor man’s plight; sent to Hell. [N.T.: Luke 16:19–31]
world’s richest man in classical times. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 91]
Fortunatus’ purse
luckless man receives gift of inexhaustible purse. [Ital. Fairy Tale: LLEI, I: 286]
16th-century German financiers. [Ger. Hist.: NCE, 1023–1024]
Hughes, Howard
(1905–1976) eccentric millionaire; lived as recluse. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1284]
Phrygian king; whatever he touched became gold. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: Wheeler, 24]
god of wealth: blind (indiscriminate); lame (slow to accumulate); and winged (quick to disappear). [Gk. Lit.: Plutus]
Rockefeller, John D(avison)
(1839–1937) oil magnate; name has become synonymous with “rich.” [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 431]
fabulous riches garnered from gifts and tolls. [O.T.: I Kings 10:14–25]
rich Athenian; ruined by his prodigal generosity to friends. [Br. Lit.: Timon of Athens]
seeing turquoise after a new moon brings wealth. [Gem Symbolism: Kunz, 345]
Warbucks, Daddy
adventurous soldier of fortune and richest man in world. [Comics: “Little Orphan Annie” in Horn, 459]
wheat stalk
traditional symbol of wealth. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 178]
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