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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.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

(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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in periodicals archive ?
MEDICAL MYSTERY: Jim Sturgess plays Ben Campbell; This is the kind of rags-to-riches escapism that we can depend on.
His story is a classic rags-to-riches tale, the sort of success story that could inspire other budding entrepreneurs."
Mr Kitchen was catapulted into a real life rags-to-riches story when he scooped pounds 1.8 million in 1999.
Rodney Carroll's No Free Lunch runs counter to most rags-to-riches tales in that it makes no attempt to con the reader with a sense of self-righteousness and false hope conceived to persuade the disheartened and downtrodden that all things are possible if you just believe.
THIS little lad went on to enjoy a genuine rags-to-riches life.
The rags-to-riches millionaire, who is still only 34, runs Manchester-based clothing empire Joe Bloggs.
"She was the ultimate rags-to-riches story," says owner David Redvers, who bought her for 400gns as a yearling and now keeps her at his Tweenhills Stud.
Rags-to-riches romance "Slumdog Millionaire" scooped up eight early Oscar awards including best movie, best adapted screenplay, best song and best original score.
The rags-to-riches tale, which has already bagged seven Baftas and four Golden Globes is vying with The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk and The Reader for the coveted best picture award.
Rags-to-riches Clydebank boy Duncan explained: "They smoke and I just find it hard to socialise with people who smoke."
In the movie Kuno Becker, who plays rags-to-riches footballer Santiago Munez, bumps into Beckham in a club and the pair exchange about 20 words.
THERE have been winners every day in the Evening Telegraph Rags-to-Riches game, and there are still more great prizes to come.
She is one of the world's top authors, yet Catherine Cookson's own life story is a rags-to-riches epic in its own right.
Set towards the end of the 19th century, this lavish saga tells the story of her rags-to-riches transformation following her employment at The Paradise department store.
New Delhi, February 24 (ANI): Now US President, Barack Obama is mesmerized by Slumdog Millionaire.According to the White House Obama wants to watch the acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire.The exhilarating rags-to-riches fairy tale set in Mumbai,swept the Oscars with eight awards including the best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay; with A R Rahman becoming the only Indian to bag two Oscars for the best score and original song.