gilded cage


To be like “a bird in a gilded cage” is to live in luxury but without freedom: “Because the movie star could not go out without being recognized and pursued, she stayed in her penthouse, living like a bird in a gilded cage.”

The encumbrances or limitations that often accompany material wealth, as in She had furs, jewelry, whatever money could buy, but was trapped in a gilded cage. This metaphoric expression indicating that riches cannot buy happiness was popularized (and possibly coined) in a song, “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” (1990; lyrics by Arthur J. Lamb, music by Harry von Tilzer), about a young girl marrying for wealth instead of love and paying for luxury with a life of regret.

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