What Does Embarrassment Of Riches Mean?

An Embarrassment of Riches Meaning

Definition: An overabundance of a good thing.

Origin of Embarrassment of Riches

This idiom is a literal translation of a French play, L’Embarras des richesses, from the year 1726, by the writer Leonor Jean Christine Soulas d’Allainval.

It was translated to English by John Ozell and opened in London in 1738.

Normally, this idiom has a negative connotation. It means that someone has so many good things that it is a problem. A similar expression is too much of a good thing.

An example of this would be King Midas, who could turn everything he touched into gold. At first this seems great, but, eventually, he realized he couldn’t even touch the people he loved without turning them to metal.

Despite this connotation, sometimes people use this expression in a positive way, simply to emphasize that they have many good things. It can also mean having so many things that it is difficult to choose between them.

Examples of Embarrassment of Riches

define embarrassment of richesThe dialogue below shows two friends discussing the difficulties of the new job one of them just received.

Giuseppe: This new job is interesting.

May: Good interesting or bad interesting?

Giuseppe: Well, I’m not sure. I have an embarrassment of riches. My boss keeps giving me so many compliments.

May: That doesn’t sound too bad.

Giuseppe: It wouldn’t be bad, except it is making all my co-workers jealous. I’ll never make friends because now all the other employees hate me.

embarrassment of the richesIn the dialogue below, a father is talking to his daughter about her pet dog.

Vesna: I want to buy a new doghouse for my pet.

Rafal: No way. That dog has way too many toys and other luxuries already. He has an embarrassment of riches.

Vesna: What do you mean?

Rafal: There are a lot of poor people in this city. I don’t want them to see that our dog lives better than they do. Our neighbors will think we are frivolous and uncaring if we buy anything else for that dog.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about instability within a city.

  • But unlike other cities, Anaheim has the resources to make an impact. In fact, Anaheim has an embarrassment of riches that are the envy of other cities. –OC Register

The second excerpt is from an article about the mayor of a city.

  • “You continue to be a tough act to follow,” Gamble said in reference to Beall. “We have an embarrassment of riches here in Rancho Santa Margarita. We have wonderful opportunities to forge successful relationships in service of the community.” –OC Register


The phrase embarrassment of riches means having so many good things that it creates a problem.