Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


someone who goes to social events organized by fashionable people

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun socialite first appeared in Time magazine in the late 1920s. It is formed from the adjective ‘social’ and the suffix ‘-ite’, which is generally used to denote someone who comes from a particular place or follows a particular leader or belief.


Gloria Vanderbilt, who died this week aged 95, was often described as a socialite. The term does not seem to do justice to a woman who, after being subject of a notorious custody battle as a child, filled a long life with four marriages, four children, a glittering social life, and professional activities that ranged from fashion and interior design to writing (both memoirs and fiction), art and filmmaking. The word socialite implies frivolity: frequent collocates include wealthy and well-bred but also spoiled, pampered, snooty and vapid. It is frequently paired with the words ‘celebrity‘ and ‘celeb‘, the difference between the two categories being that celebrities are generally famous for doing something, while socialites don’t necessarily do anything much except socialize. The -ite suffix is generally used to form words denoting a supporter or follower of someone or something (Luddite, Jacobite, Thatcherite). In the case of socialite it may have been the intention to suggest a pun on ‘social light’, where ‘light’ has the same meaning as in the term ‘leading light‘.


“I am not a socialite, though I seem to have got the reputation for being one.”
(Douglas Fairbanks Junior)

“We are not put on this earth to see through one another. We are put on this earth to see one another through.”
(Gloria Vanderbilt)

Related words

hostess, man-about-town, partygoer, reveller

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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