English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In my country, the term breadwinner is widely used. However, several years ago, if I remember it correctly, some TV personality said that the term breadwinner is not anymore the usual term to call a person who primarily earns for the family. If this word is not widely accepted nowadays, what word would be rather used?

share|improve this question
I think you are from the Philippines. Dear, if it is perfectly understandable here in in our country, I see no reason why choosing another term would be more proper. – gelolopez Dec 16 '13 at 7:15
Hi @gelolopez. Yes, you're right. However, I am not too sure of the word's popularity here in our country. :) – Lester Nubla Dec 16 '13 at 8:01
It is quite obvious. Professionals in our country use the word to describe themselves as the primary, if not the only, earner of the household. Using breadwinner provides no confusion so there is no problem in using it. – gelolopez Dec 16 '13 at 8:03
Actually, without hearing it on TV, I would stick with breadwinner. I am just asking if there is a newly used word nowadays, not just here in our country, but also in other English-speaking countries. Thanks for commenting, though. – Lester Nubla Dec 16 '13 at 8:12
up vote 4 down vote accepted

As Michael said, breadwinner is alive and well in British English. In American English, breadwinner (though still right up there) is falling in use (less than half the British use, and falling; if you use the Ngram, extend to 2013). The word is being replaced by "primary wage earner".

Quite a hubbub was created here recently when a Pew study showed that in 40% of households, women are the primary wage earners.

share|improve this answer
I've deleted my answer (and changed the default range on my Ngram Viewer), but it does show a similar drop in the use of 'breadwinner' in UK usage as well. – Michael Owen Sartin Dec 16 '13 at 2:19

The Pew Research study mentioned in another answer is titled (ironically enough), "Breadwinner Moms." I would agree another answer that the demise of breadwinner is exaggerated.

While COCA does seem to show that the use of breadwinner has tailed off somewhat in recent years, charting breadwinner vs primary wage earner in Google Ngrams for American English shows that breadwinner is still used much more frequently.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.