The shifting meaning of “millionaire”

by Andrew Gelman on December 5, 2010 · 9 comments

in Political Economy

It used to be that a millionaire was someone with million dollars. Nowadays, though, the term is often used to refer to people who make a million dollars a year. (See here, for example, in a discussion of the so-called millionaire’s tax break.. I guess it makes sense—lots of Americans have a million dollars in assets, and so for “millionaire” to keep its traditional meaning of “really rich,” it had to shift somehow. It still seems funny to me, that this change in definition has occurred without it being formally acknowledged.

P.S. Also, could people please try to be clear on what it means when a bill “failed by a vote of 53-36” in the Senate? I first read this as: the bill received 53 No votes and 36 Yes votes. But, looking carefully, I think what they meant was that it received 53 Yes votes but was filibustered.

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