bread·​win·​ner | \ ˈbred-ˌwi-nər How to pronounce breadwinner (audio) \
plural breadwinners

Definition of breadwinner

1 : a member of a family whose wages supply the family's principal or only means of support the main/primary/sole breadwinner in the family … many more households have two breadwinners, making it unlikely that there will be someone home all afternoon to cook.— Mark Bittman
2 : a means (such as a tool, craft, or activity) of livelihood : a way of earning income Crop diversity kept the overall value of Montana agriculture strong even as wheat, the state agriculture's breadwinner, faltered.— Tom Lutey Catfish farming has become the breadwinner industry for many families in west Alabama …— Robert Dewitt and Benita D. Newton

Other Words from breadwinner

breadwinning \ ˈbred-​ˌwi-​niŋ How to pronounce breadwinner (audio) \ noun

Examples of breadwinner in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Her salary wasn’t enough to cover her basic needs in Los Angeles, let alone succeed as a breadwinner for her family. Frances Solá-santiago,, 17 Jan. 2022 He was entitled to an exemption as the principal breadwinner of his Cambridge family., 25 Mar. 2021 Porter, who was then working as a waitress, was the couple’s primary breadwinner, though her partner helped with household bills and childcare. Jeannine Amber, Essence, 3 Apr. 2022 And a grandfather in suburban Maryland — the stoic breadwinner for his large immigrant family — wept when the paramedics took him away. Washington Post, 11 Mar. 2022 Terry, a corporate drone who still brags about his Ivy League pedigree, tries on various macho archetypes: the decisive patriarch, the rugged woodsman, the breadwinner who commutes home every night to a docile wife. Judy Berman, Time, 3 Mar. 2022 She was trained as a nurse, was an active member of her church and the breadwinner for her family of six. Joseph Diaz, ABC News, 25 Feb. 2022 Where’s Dad? Vincent Palmieri, a 35-year-old union typesetter, disappeared in 1972, leaving his wife, Annette, and nine kids in a Staten Island housing project without a husband, a father, a breadwinner, or an explanation. Kevin Cullen,, 20 Dec. 2021 Those who've become the breadwinner or major support of a household because of the death of the head of household due to the disaster. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, 20 Dec. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'breadwinner.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of breadwinner

circa 1614, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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Time Traveler for breadwinner

Time Traveler

The first known use of breadwinner was circa 1614

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Dictionary Entries Near breadwinner

bread wheat



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Statistics for breadwinner

Last Updated

20 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Breadwinner.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on breadwinner

Nglish: Translation of breadwinner for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of breadwinner for Arabic Speakers


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