"one who has recently acquired wealth; a wealthy upstart," 1808 in reference to England; 1803 in reference to France, a French phrase, literally "new rich" (plural nouveaux riches). Opposite noveau pauvre is attested from 1965. Ancient Greek had the same idea in neo-ploutos "newly become rich."
"course of action," late 14c., from mean (n.); sense of "wealth, resources at one's disposal for accomplishing some object" is recorded by c. 1600. Compare French moyens, German Mittel. Phrase by no means is attested from late 15c. Man of means is from 1620s. Means-test "official inquiry into the private resources of an applicant for public funds" is from 1930.
mid-15c., "high official, great man, noble, man of wealth," from Late Latin magnates, plural of magnas "great person, nobleman," from Latin magnus "great, large, big" (of size), "abundant" (of quantity), "great, considerable" (of value), "strong, powerful" (of force); of persons, "elder, aged," also, figuratively, "great, mighty, grand, important," from suffixed form of PIE root *meg- "great."
common digraph introduced early 16c., originally having the sound of long "a" and meant to distinguish words spelled -e- or -ee- with that sound from those with the sound of long "e"; for example break, great. Since c. 1700, the sound in some of them has drifted to long "e" (read, hear) or sometimes short "e" (bread, wealth).
"abundant, plentiful," mid-14c., from Latin copiosus "plentiful," from copia "an abundance, ample supply, profusion, plenty; riches, prosperity; ability, power, might," also the name of the Roman goddess of abundance," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see com-) + ops (genitive opis) "power, wealth, resources," from PIE root *op- "to work, produce in abundance." Related: Copiously; copiousness.
1854, "condition of having capital;" from capital (n.1) + -ism. Meaning "political/economic system which encourages capitalists" is recorded from 1872, originally used disparagingly by socialists. Meaning "concentration of capital in the hands of a few; the power or influence of large capital" is from 1877.
"Capital" may be most briefly described as wealth producing more wealth; and "capitalism" as the system directing that process. This latter term came into general use during the second half of the 19th century as a word chiefly signifying the world-wide modern system of organizing production and trade by private enterprise free to seek profit and fortune by employing for wages the mass of human labour. There is no satisfactory definition of the term, though nothing is more evident than the thing. [J.L. Garvin, "Capitalism" in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1929]
"valued possessions, money, property, abundance of means, state of having large or valuable possessions," modified from richesse (c. 1200), a singular form misunderstood as a plural, from Old French richesse, richece "wealth, opulence, splendor, magnificence," from riche (see rich (adj.)). The Old French suffix -esse is from Latin -itia, added to adjectives to form nouns of quality (compare fortress). The spelling shift was evident by 15c.