Best, Superior, Strong

class system, abolished, bourgeoisie

class, status, power

diligent and hard-working, tax evasion, non-selflessness,

haughty, rich, educated

inequality, gold, top

money, fame, legacy

money, suite, office

old money, finance, dynasty

prestige, leverage, spirit

privilege, rich, society

rich, influential, fake

snobby, artistic, academic

wealth, exclusive, pretentious

wealth, status, opportunity

wealthy, powerful, exclusive


culture, richesse, études, milieu aisé

décideurs politiques, grandes écoles, concentration des pouvoirs, culture

elite model look, classes préparatoires, courage

grandes écoles, dirigeants du pays, Sciences Po

grandes écoles, ENA, Polytechnique, classes préparatoires

intellectuels, classes prépas, crâne d'oeuf

meilleur, bac S, fierté

meilleur, minorité

meilleur/e, intelligent,

Milieu social aisé, prestige

minorité, perfection

riche, éduqué, pouvoir


I thought it was interesting that the Amercan side is full of words that give the topic a negative connotation and imply that the elite are people who unjustly have all the power because of class or social status. The French, however imply that in order to be part of the elite, one has to work hard. It is interesting that in the French point of view one has to earn their position in the elite.

I agree with Arturo. There is an overwhelming sense of discord on the Am side in terms of how they feel about "elite".

The Am side seems to classify elite as a class or social status that one is more likely to inherit, get a lucky break into, etc, than to work their way into it. The Fr seem to only think about elite as being the best at what you do. "Le meilleur/e". In this sense, any person willing to put forth an effort and achieve as close to perfection as possible can be considered elite.

Of interest to note, the overwhelming response on the Fr side had to do with education. Education can rightly be viewed as a social equalizer, this is to say, that the "haughty" and "snobby" elite social class described by the Am with the connotation that it was impossible to socially move into is opened up to even the most unfortunate of men that is capable of and acquires an education.

It surprised me that us as MIT students didn't even think to mention education when talking about the subject of elite...instead we focused on the materialistic elite that is the one seen in the media all the time: the celebrities; the extrememely rich; the professional athletes.

Eduardo, tu as raison, c'est étonnant car en France, vous feriez partie de l'élite de la nation !!!

Il y a deux mots que je ne comprend pas dans les réponses américaines: Hamptons et leverage; quelqu'un peut m'expliquer svp?

Le mot élite en France est positif, pas négatif, c'est un complimetn quand on vous dit que vous faites partie de l'élite, comme vous!


The Hamptons refers to the towns Southampton and East Hampton in Long Island, New York. In American pop culture, having a house in the Hamptons means you are incredibly wealthy (since you can afford that piece of property!).


I think leverage in this sense means having power over others.

It looks as if the French look to the elite with a sense of respect which Americans look to the elite with a sense of bitterness. I am wondering if this observation is a result of the differences in the way that the French elite and the American elite act? I know that in America, one of the huge political issues is the distribution of tax on the elite and the lower class. There's always a rivalry between taxing on the rich and taxing on the poor, so the lower class Americans always look to the elite class (those with money) with bitterness. I wonder if it is this way in France as well?

In the US, it is definitely an insult to be called an "elitist," and it is almost taboo to refer to yourself as a member of the elite. This may be because (as Yu said) there is a large tax disparity between the rich and the poor in America, and there is a great deal of bitterness in the country because of this disparity. 

A common way to disparage politicians is to call them elitist. Here's a Washington Post article that talks about the right-wing in the US tries to portray Obama as elitist, and therefor unsuitable to be the President: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/11/AR2008041103965.html

There is a difference, though, between the words "elite" and "elitist." "Elitist" means that a person only associates with other elite people, and thinks poorly of non-elite people and things. Is there a word with negative connotations that means "elitist" in French? 

Relating to what I sad above about economic disparity in the US: there is a growing popular movement in the country called "We Are the 99 Percent." It says that 99% of the people in the country are in severe economic distress, while the remaining 1% of the people in the country control almost all of the wealth. There website is here: http://wearethe99percent.tumblr.com/  . I think that it is interesting to read it: it has many, many peoples' hand-written stories of the economic problems that they are facing in the United States. 

Merci pour vos commentaire très intéressants, j'apprends beaucoup de choses!

Leslie, je suis surprise de voir le sens que vous donnez à élite, ici, c'est tout l'inverse! On est fier de faire partie de l'élite, et c'est un compliment ! Par contre, le mot élitiste a un sens un peu différent pour nous auussi, et on se rejoint peut-être là-dessus: en gros, faire partie de l'élite, c'est bien, mais être élitiste, ce n'est pas toujours "politiquement correct", cela peut être mal vu par certain.


Leslie, tu parle du mouvement "we are the 99 percent": as-tu entendu parler du mouvement des Indignés, en France et en Europe? tu as entendu parler de Stéphane Hessel et de son livre "Indignez-vous"?


Elitism is the haughty sense of self-importance and overestimation. Elitists think they are superior to other people by virtue of their background or upbringing. Rich people tend to be elitist.

Maybe this all has something to do with the American dream. In the early 1900's and before that, America was run by the rich. There were sevral families that owned everything financially and politically, and everyone else was at the bottom. So the dream that everyone wanted was to reach the top with the rest of the rich Americans. In the 1900's though, there were a lot of social reforms that a loowed the poor to get an education and make to middle class or even rich themselves. Because of this Americans became bitter towards those that had kept them down for so many centuries. They believed that the Dream belonged to every American citizen. That's why the word "elite" became tabboo. No one wanted to be associated with them.


In France, though, maybe it's because the history is so long or social reform came a long time ago. Maybe the rich didn't have as much power there as they did here. Maybe the people that had the power were the educated instead of the rich. They were the ones who were cultured. But were they rich as well? I think so. I think that the elite in France were rich also, but they were known more for their eduction than for their money.

en effet tu as raison chelsie mais l'élite n'est pas forcément riche mais ils sont les meilleurs dans leurs domaine. aux états unis ce que vous appelé elite est surement ce que nous appelons haute bourgeoisie. 


Je suis d'accord avec Chelsea et Jean Philippe: le terme élite recouvre des chose diférentes chez nous et chez vous; l'élite est plus liée a l'éducation qu'a la richesse

My understanding is that "elite" in the US has two interconnected meanings.

1. The predominant interpretation is the rich who are here necessarily also the powerful. That's why I put "leverage" -- the condition of being able to influence and determine social processes. This seems to correspond to what Jean-Philippe calls "la haute bourgeoisie." 

2. The other one, I guess, is more of an attitude towards the elite: that is, the concept of elitism, which has almost entirely negative connotations and means conceiving of oneself or of a group of people -- to which you usually add youself -- as superior to the rest.

Pierre, it's very interesting that, along with Jean-Philippe, you also point out the elite as based on education and not money. Does it mean that having graduated from a grande école automatically makes you part of the elite? And that having a diploma from a normal university implies you can hardly become part of it?

In fact, this may be the case here, as well, at least to some extent. There are the openly called "elite" universities like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and, of course, after you graduate from those, you normally make your way to the upper middle class.

Also, it is also worth discussing how one makes their way to the elite. The fundamental gateway in France seem to be the grandes écoles, and entrance is meritocratic after the preparatory classes, isn't it?

Here, places like Harvard, Princeton and Yale, I have heard, are much less meritocratic as to their admissions. That is, quite a large part the of people who get in are quite rich to begin with :-) So one might conjecture that the elite in the US is more closed than the one in France, even though on the surface and insofar as the stereotypes go, it should be the contrary. Thoughts?