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There appears to be some disagreement/confusion about the precise meaning of セレブ - some dictionaries claim that セレブ means the same thing as English "celebrity", while others claim that it just means "rich person".

デジタル大辞泉 basically says it means the same as "celebrity" - a famous person.

著名人。名士。セレブリティー。

語源由来辞典 suggests that while it can mean "famous person", it is also frequently used to refer to a "beautiful woman" or a "rich person".

セレブとは、名士。有名人。女性誌などでは、知名度に関係なく、美しく優雅で知的な女性を意味したり、お金持ちをさすことが多い。

The explanation on Japanese Wikipedia also says that セレブ implies things like "rich", "refined", and "posh" (albeit this section lacks sources).

日本のテレビや雑誌メディアはセレブと略し、金持ち、優雅な、高級な、などの意味合いで使用している。

Given that this word is a relatively recent import from English (late '90s, according to 語源由来辞典), I'm guessing that there's still some variation in the way it's used. In any case, what I would like to know is - how is セレブ typically used these days? Does it mean "celebrity", or does it mean "rich person", or can it mean both, or what?

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The gogen entry says a little bit more than that. It talks about how it originally referred to actresses and supermodels but now has a vague meaning associated with wealth and expensive accessories –  ssb May 15 at 7:13

1 Answer 1

セレブ has a lot of meanings/feelings. Rich person, person who wears expensive accessories, person who is just famous, etc.

For example, I called a friend セレブ when he bought an expensive watch:

Friend> "10[万円]{まんえん}の[腕時計]{うでどけい}[買]{か}ったんだ。" (I bought a watch that costs 100,000-yen.)

Me> "へえ、お[前]{まえ}セレブだなあ。" (Oh, you're セレブ, dude.)

The original English word "celebrity" means a famous person, you know, while it doesn't mean "rich people".

Why セレブ means "rich person" is, I think, because most of "celebrities" seen in television look so rich and wear expensive accessories. (e.g. Movie actors/actresses)

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