AskDefine | Define parvenu

Dictionary Definition

parvenu adj
1 characteristic of someone who has risen economically or socially but lacks the social skills appropriate for this new position [syn: nouveau-riche, parvenue, upstart(a)]
2 of or characteristic of a parvenu [syn: parvenue] n : a person who has suddenly risen to a higher economic status but has not gained social acceptance of others in that class [syn: upstart, nouveau-riche, arriviste]

User Contributed Dictionary



From pervenire through parvenu.


  1. A person who has risen, climbed up, or has been promoted from his class, especially through acquisition of wealth, rights, or political authority but has not gained social acceptance by those within the new class.
    • 2001: January 31, Francis Wheen, "The whole truth about Peter's friends", The Guardian
      But the favourite's power and influence provoke intense ill-feeling among other courtiers, who regard him as a sinister, usurping parvenu with ideas above his station, or perhaps even a sorcerer.

Related terms


  1. Being a parvenu; also, like or having the characteristics of a parvenu.
    • 2001: Norman Birnbaum, After Progress, Oxford University Press,
      The Progressives were of the educated middle class, angry at the rule of parvenu financiers and industrialists.
    • 2003: Edith Grossman (translator), Gabriel García Márquez, Living to Tell the Tale (2002), Chapter 1,
      The majority of the adults, however, viewed Luisa Santiaga as the precious jewel of a rich and powerful family whom a parvenu telegraph operator was courting not for love but self-interest.


being a parvenu; also, like or having the characteristics of a parvenu
  • Hungarian: parvenü, felkapaszkodott


  1. ; arrived.

Extensive Definition

Parvenus are people that are relative newcomers to a socioeconomic class. The word derives from the French language; it is the past participle of the verb parvenir (to reach, to arrive, to manage to do something). (see Parva)


The word “parvenu” typically describes a person who recently ascended the social ladder, especially a nouveau riche or “new money” individual. The famous Molly Brown, who survived the Titanic sinking in 1912, was considered a “new money” individual due to her impoverished, Irish immigrant roots and lack of social pedigree.
Webster’s dictionary, at, defines a parvenu as: someone who has gained a position of power or authority but not yet gained the manner or social skills associated with this new position.
The term designates individuals not socially accepted by individuals already established in their new class. It is a form of classism.


See also the short story called Parvenue by Mary Shelley.
Several examples might include athletic and entertainment professionals born and raised in poverty and suddenly finding themselves with significantly higher sources of income due to their new-found celebrity status. The established old money factions of society often choose to exclude these individuals from their ranks, with the argument that such people are tasteless in their spending and use their wealth to flaunt their economic standing rather than practice philanthropy, maintain discretion, and otherwise acquiesce to the accepted behavior of the social class.
The Bonaparte family were considered parvenu royalty by other royal families of Europe. Napoleon III tried to marry into Swedish and German royalty, but was unsuccessful due to his status as parvenu. This was also said to be the case with the marriage of Egyptian Princess Fawzia to the future Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. One of the reasons speculated for their divorce is that Fawzia’s family, including King Farouk I, viewed the Pahlavis as parvenus. Though the Muhammad Ali Dynasty of Egypt and Sudan, to which Fawzia belonged, had humble beginnings, it had solidified its status in Egypt and the Arab World since 1805. In contrast, the Pahlavis were a far more recent dynasty, owing their position entirely to the coup d’etat of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s father, Reza Khan, in 1921.
Other examples may have worked their way up the ladder, originally poor immigrants to the United States. Originally immigrant workers, they would have found themselves able to take advantage of the growing opportunities in the U.S., moving on to become civil servants, “white collar” (business/office) workers and finally to the “gentry”. Such an example might be John Jacob Astor, whose family once skinned rabbits for a living and went on to build such icons of New York City as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with his brother. Many believe this phenomenon is not as common in Europe due to the centuries old, well-established social hierarchy of European countries, nor is it as common in present-day U.S. due to largely the same reasons.
In the novel, The Great Gatsby, Gatsby represents the newly rich, through his illicit activities including selling bootleg liqueur, and his decadent parties.
In the film, Downfall, Hitler refers to Hermann Göring as “ein Parvenu!”
In Chekov's The Cherry Orchard, Gayev regards Lophakhin as a parvenu, as many critics interpret his remarks.
Pip from Dickens’ Great Expectations would be considered a parvenu by many.
parvenu in German: Parvenü
parvenu in Japanese: 成金
parvenu in Russian: Парвеню

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Babbitt, Daddy Warbucks, Philistine, Young Turk, adventurer, arriviste, billionaire, bloated plutocrat, boor, bounder, bourgeois, bourgeois gentilhomme, bright young man, cad, capitalist, churl, clown, comer, emigrant, epicier, fat cat, fledgling, gate-crasher, greenhorn, groundling, guttersnipe, hooligan, ill-bred fellow, immigrant, intruder, intrusive, looby, lout, low fellow, man of means, man of substance, man of wealth, millionaire, modern, modern generation, modern man, modernist, modernizer, moneybags, moneyed man, mucker, multimillionaire, mushroom, nabob, name-dropper, neologism, neologist, neology, neonate, neoteric, neoterism, neoterist, new arrival, new boy, new generation, new man, newcomer, newly-rich, nouveau riche, nouveau roturier, nouveau-riche, novus homo, parvenue, peasant, pig in clover, plutocrat, recruit, ribald, rich man, richling, rising generation, rookie, roturier, rough, roughneck, rowdy, ruffian, settler, social climber, sprout, squatter, status seeker, stowaway, stripling, tenderfoot, tufthunter, upstart, vulgarian, vulgarist, warm man, wealthy man, would-be gentleman, yokel
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