providing a livelihood or basic source of income; supplying the basic needs of life: a bread-and-butter job; the agency's bread-and-butter account.
of or relating to basic needs: housing and other bread-and-butter political issues.
basic or everyday; staple; routine.
expressing thanks for hospitality: a bread-and-butter letter.

Origin of bread-and-butter

First recorded in 1720–30; adj. use of noun phrase bread and butter

bread and butter


bread spread with butter.
a basic means of support; source of livelihood; sustenance: The automobile industry is the bread and butter of many Detroiters.

Origin of bread and butter

First recorded in 1620–30 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bread-and-butter

Contemporary Examples of bread-and-butter

Historical Examples of bread-and-butter

  • Then another slice of bread-and-butter and more gooseberries.

    The Skilful Cook

    Mary Harrison

  • He crumpled a piece or two of bread-and-butter and spread crumbs on the cloth.

    A Great Man

    Arnold Bennett

  • It was an excellent tea, with shrimps and bread-and-butter, and cake and jam.

  • "Oh, I think there will be plenty of bread-and-butter," said the lawyer.

    The Opal Serpent

    Fergus Hume

  • And he said that kings were nuisances, and didn't earn their bread-and-butter.

    Long Live the King

    Mary Roberts Rinehart

British Dictionary definitions for bread-and-butter

bread and butter


(modifier) a means of support or subsistence; livelihoodthe inheritance was their bread and butter
  1. providing a basic means of subsistencea bread-and-butter job
  2. solid, reliable, or practicala bread-and-butter player
  3. expressing gratitude, as for hospitality (esp in the phrase bread-and-butter letter)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with bread-and-butter

bread and butter


The essential, sustaining element, as in The quality of the schools is the bread and butter of town property values. This idiom alludes to a basic food, bread spread with butter. [c. 1700]


Means of livelihood, as in John's job is the family's bread and butter. [First half of 1700s]


Ordinary, routine, as in Don't worry about it; this is just a bread and butter assignment. [Second half of 1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.