What is a 'Material Girl'? Meaning, Definition, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on March 13, 2023

Did you hear someone use the phrase ‘Material Girl’ and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, examples, and more.

In short, ‘Material Girl’ can be used in reference to a number of different phenomena.

If you hear someone say ‘Material Girl,’ they might be referring to the popular Madonna song by the same name, the popular Saucy Santana song by the same name, or they might be describing a person that puts a high priority on material possessions and a luxury lifestyle. The phrase has also been used as a nickname in mainstream media for Madonna, the best-selling female recording artist of all time.

What Does 'Material Girl' Mean?

‘Material girl’ is a phrase that can actually have a number of different meanings. All of them relate to the notion of materialism, which is defined as “a tendency to consider physical comfort and material possessions as more important than spiritual values.”

It’s worth noting that there is a second definition of ‘materialism,’ which is a philosophical term. In this sense, ‘materialism’ is “the doctrine that matters and its movements and modifications is the only thing that exists.” Essentially, this is the idea that consciousness and all other phenomena stem from matter.

The opposite of materialism in a philosophical sense is idealism. This phrase refers to any system of thought that “asserts that reality is indistinguishable and inseparable from perception and understanding.”

In any case, the phrase ‘Material Girl’ is certainly not referring to anything as heady and cerebral as the philosophical battle between materialism and idealism. Instead, it is typically used in relation to a woman that prioritizes material possessions and is generally materialistic. Depending on the context, it can be used as a criticism or an empowering statement.

Understanding the Meaning of ‘Materialism’

In the simplest sense, a ‘Material Girl’ is a woman or girl that is materialistic. The definition of ‘materialistic’ is “money-oriented” or “excessively concerned with material possessions.” ‘Material possessions’ is defined as “belongings or property that are tangible.”

For example:

  • Your car, clothes, phone, shoes, and TV are all material possessions.

A person that is materialistic puts a high priority on having a lot of money and accruing many material possessions. They also commonly use these possessions to display their social status to others.

The word ‘materialistic’ is often used to describe a person using a critical or negative connotation. Describing someone as materialistic usually means that a person is more concerned with their possessions, appearance, and social status at the expense of the deeper and more spiritual sides of life.

As we’ll see in the next section, however, ‘Material Girl’ is sometimes used as a term with a more positive connotation.

The Urban Dictionary Definition

The popular online slang dictionary Urban Dictionary has several entries for the phrase ‘Material Girl.’ The definition that has received the greatest amount of approval in the form of ‘thumbs up’ is:

“A girl who is very independent, not relying on other people & fights for what she wants. A Material Girl also tends to like expensive and luxurious things. She is also a girl who knows what she wants and will do anything in her power to get it. They tend to show confidence and egotistical behaviors even though they are not really like that. A Material Girl is usually not a particularly good person in a romantic relationship because of their independence Stubbornness & outgoing personality.”

Urban Dictionary by mkataate4 November 26, 2020

As you can see, this is a more positive understanding of what it means to be a ‘Material Girl,' though it is still a bit critical in the explanation that this type of person tends to act in an 'egotistical' way.

The second most popular definition in Urban Dictionary refers to the hit single from the artist Saucy Santana entitled “Material Girl.” The name of the song is a reference to the Madonna song by the same name, which we’ll discuss in the next section. In this song, the phrase ‘Material Girl’ refers to a woman that has expensive items and is focused on her material possessions.

The Madonna Song

‘Material Girl’ is also the name of a song by the famous American singer Madonna. Released in January of 1985, this song appears on Madonna’s second studio album named Like a Virgin.

The lyrics of this song illustrate a person that wants to live an affluent and wealthy life and only wants to date men that can afford to offer a luxurious lifestyle. Essentially, the lyrics identify with a mindset of materialism.

This is one of the songs that catapulted Madonna to the status of icon in American culture. The song reached the top five in a number of countries– Belgium, Japan, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., it reached the number two slot on the Billboard Hot 100.

As a highly recognizable song from the 80s, it’s no surprise that a number of other artists have covered the song ‘Material Girl’ over the years, including Britney Spears.

In the mainstream media, the term ‘Material Girl’ became a nickname for Madonna herself.

The Recent TikTok ‘Material Girl’ Trend

‘Material girl’ has reemerged as a term because of a recent internet trend on the social media platform TikTok. If someone uses the phrase ‘material girl,’ it’s possible that they are referring to the TikTok trend that emerged in the fall of 2021.

During this time, people began posting content that showed individuals that seemed to prioritize their material possessions. On top of this, the emphasis was on living a luxurious lifestyle and owning luxury items.

Examples of 'Material Girl' In Sentences

How would ‘Material Girl’ be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • “Let’s go back into the bar– it sounds like they’re playing Material Girl! That was my favorite song when I was in high school.”
  • “I’m not sure whether or not it’s going to work out with Sally and me. There are some things I really like about her, but she’s such a Material Girl I’m worried that our values are too different.”
  • She has changed so much in the last twenty years. The last time I saw her, she was a total Material Girl. These days, she spends all of her time at meditation and yoga retreats.”
  • “I used to feel bad about the fact that I care so much about my appearance and having expensive clothes. Now I embrace it– I’m a total Material Girl.”
  • “I personally think it’s weird that she’s turned into such a Material Girl. When she was a kid, she was a complete tomboy.”
  • “Have you heard the famous song Material Girl? No, not the Madonna song– the one by Saucy Santana.”
  • “Jennifer will only wear the most expensive jewelry and clothes. She’s a complete Material Girl. She’s been that way since she was a little girl.”

Final Thoughts on ‘Material Girl’

‘Material Girl’ is a phrase that has to do with a woman or girl being materialistic– meaning that she attaches importance to having a lot of material possessions, her social status, and her image. It might be used in reference to the hit single ‘Material Girl’ by Madonna or the song by the same name by Saucy Santana. It is also sometimes used as a sobriquet (i.e., nickname) for Madonna.

If the term is used in reference to a person, the idea is that the individual being described is highly focused on the acquisition and consumption of material things. While ‘materialistic’ is often used as a criticism with a negative connotation, some people use the phrase ‘Material Girl’ as an empowering statement about a person that likes luxury items and a luxury lifestyle.”

Are you interested in expanding your English vocabulary? If so, check out our idioms blog for more idioms, expressions, sayings, and adages!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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