Originally a slang term, the compound word gold-digger has become an idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. An idiom can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as kick the bucket, barking up the wrong tree and piece of cake, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the definition of the expression gold-digger, where it came from and some examples of its use in a sentence or two.

The earliest meaning of the term gold-digger was simply someone who digs for gold. However, by the early twentieth century the term gold-digger came to mean someone who charms a rich person in order to get his money. The idea is that the gold-digger is mining money, but not from the ground. Very quickly the term morphed to its present meaning, which is a woman who marries a man for his money. The connotation is of a conniving, manipulative woman who plays with a man’s emotions in order to enrich herself. A 1929 Broadway show, The Gold Diggers of Broadway reinforced the idea of the gold-digger in popular culture, as did the film Gold Diggers of 1933 which is a musical that introduced the song We’re in the Money. The idiom gold-digger is also a compound word, which is a word derived from two separate words used together. Gold-digger is a hyphenated compound word, and has been for awhile. Hyphenated compound words are midway on their journeys to become closed compound words, which are ones that do not have a space between the two, separate words. The Oxford English Dictionary spells gold-digger with a hyphen, though other dictionaries spell the term as two separate words, as in gold digger. The plural form is gold-diggers.


A single woman who appeared on a new dating show has been branded a ‘gold digger’ after admitting she’s only interested in ‘financially secure’ suitors who wear ‘big watches’. (The Daily Mail)

A MUM was branded a “gold-digger” by her ­furious ex in a heated custody battle — over their deep fat fryer. (The Sun)

While continuously crying, Jasleen said that she was not a gold digger and she could have chosen anyone else if her intention was to make money. (The Janta Ka Reporter)

When their romance was made public, US site Radar Online reported that Erica was known as ‘a gold-digger’ and a ‘big partyer’ within her inner circle. (The New Zealand Herald)

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