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adjective (used before a noun) Characterized by a rise from poverty to great or exceptional wealth. My uncle's is a true rags-to-riches story: he grew up without a penny, but through sheer determination, he founded his own company and is now one of the wealthiest men in the state.

rags to riches

COMMON If you describe someone's life as a rags to riches story, you are saying that they were very poor when they were young but became very rich and successful later in life. His life sounds to me like the classic rags to riches story. He married some money, I gather, then made a lot more. Note: You can also say that someone goes from rags to riches or rises from rags to riches. When asked how he went from rags to riches, Plunkett said, `I saw my opportunities and I took them.' People who rise from rags to riches are often afraid the good life will be snatched away from them. Note: People sometimes use the expression riches to rags to mean that you have been very rich but have lost a lot of money and so have become very poor. The country went from riches to rags in a generation.
See also: rag, riches

(from) rags to riches

used to describe a person's rise from a state of extreme poverty to one of great wealth.
2000 Imogen Edwards-Jones My Canapé Hell Much was made of his East End roots, his chance discovery on Oxford Street. He was truly a modern day tale of rags to riches.
See also: rag, riches
References in periodicals archive ?
The rags-to-riches success was the biggest in the career of jockey Robert Miles, who once quit racing to work as a tyre fitter.
WALES scrum-half Rob Howley completes a rags-to-riches recovery when he pulls on the No 9 jersey for the first time since being cruelly denied Test honours by a dislocated shoulder in 1997.
But will Martine's rags-to-riches life story nark Danniella, whose fortunes seem to be going in the opposite direction?
And now the pin-up actor will play Mariah's love interest in All That Glitters, a familar-sounding rags-to-riches tale of a singer's rise to stardom.