In Asian families, usually the father is the person who goes to work and earns money in order to feed the family, and the mother is a housewife who usually cooks meals, cleans the house, and washes the clothes.

I wonder if there is a word in English that I can use to call that father?

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    probably "working Dad" (or "working Father") would be the common phrase today: you see, it's almost like you're saying "conventional" Father - get it? Nowadays you have so many "alternate arrangements". Yes, breadwinner as mentioned below. Another intriguing phrase you ofter hear is "1950s marriage!" or "1950s Father/Dad" "1950s Mom". The implication is "totally traditional" - as you outline. For the US TV generation "the 1950s" equates to Mom baking and sweeping the floors, Dad working hard ("at a factory").
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 15:02
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    It is unclear from the question whether you are looking for the word describing any parent who earns money while the other parent keeps house, or whether you particularly need a word that means specifically a father who earns a family's income. In other words, which blank are you trying to fill in: "In Asian families, usually the father is the ____," or, "Asian families usually have a _____"?
    – David K
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 21:29

5 Answers 5


You can call such a person (m/f) a breadwinner:

a person who earns money to support a family

(source: Merriam-Webster)

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    If another member of the family is bringing in most of the money, perhaps the mother, then you may describe them as "the main breadwinner". OP made a distinction about the father so Glorfindel is correct.
    – Boggin
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 12:21
  • @Boggin Exactly my thought. It is common for both parents to work these days, and even teenagers, so I'd say "the main breadwinner" is becomming more common. The question does read the "main" not "sole" earner.
    – n00dles
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 14:36
  • The only problem with this: by all means, "breadwinner" is the person who works. You could sau, Hoai is asking this: "In Asia, the father is the breadwinner and the wife is the homemaker. Nowadays in the USA, this often varies. What's the word I use for a "traditional" or "Asian" Dad who is the breadwinner?" You see what I mean?
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 15:04
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    I think that in english you generally have to explain that the man/woman/masculine/feminine person in question /is/ the breadwinner since we don't have any remotly common words that mean both that and hard-specify gender (anymore?). This is semi-related to the lowbrow discussion of "who wears the pants in the family/relationship" which I think started as a joke at the expense of "henpecked" men, but seems to have evolved into a more neutral (though still lowbrow) metaphor for discussing the the assignment of roles in a given relationship since we really just don't know by default anymore.
    – Weaver
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 13:14

You can also use the idiomatic expression: he who brings home the bacon:

  • to earn money to live on:

    • If Jo is at home looking after the children, someone needs to bring home the bacon.

(Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms)

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    Don't advise foreigners to use jocular expressions like this. It makes them sound silly.
    – TonyK
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 16:53
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    I disagree - "breadwinner" is neutral; this expression is informal in tone.
    – psmears
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 17:36
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    @psmears - OP request is tagged for "slang" also.
    – user66974
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 17:41
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    That's fine - I'm not saying the answer's wrong, but the expression is more colloquial than "breadwinner", and (in my view) the answer would be improved by making that clear.
    – psmears
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 17:59
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    I'm a native speaker and I'd sound silly saying this! Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 11:49

You could use the word Provider, since it's not slang and is gender-neutral.

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    you could consider filling this out a bit - adding a definition + reference and maybe an example sentence (also, OP tagged the question with 'slang')
    – Jeutnarg
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 19:54

Paterfamilias is a word that means exactly this:

  • the male head of a household


Although given that you've tagged this question with 'Slang' it may be too formal, or obscure.

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    To my mind, paterfamilias includes a connotation of authority and leadership that other suggestions (breadwinner and provider) don't. A man could be the paterfamilias even if his wife earns half the money. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 17:52
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    @MissMonicaE As in the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou: the on-the-run convict husband brands himself the "goddamn paterfamilias" over 5 children, despite being both absent and providing no tangible support.
    – bishop
    Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 19:09
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    @bishop yup, that's part of what I was thinking of! :) Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 19:27
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    I think any connotation of being the "earner" here is too overshadowed by the emphasis on leadership for what OP wants. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 19:34
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    @MissMonicaE Or all the money. :) Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 1:17

If you want a word that emphasizes masculinity, I would recommend

Patriarch: a man who heads a family, group, or government (merriam-webster)

Though this doesn't necessarily imply they are the primary money-earner typically they will be.

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    Quite the opposite, actually. When I hear patriarch, I assume that he is old enough to be retired. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 20:25
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    Obviously this also carries connotations with it (that the man is the head of the family) — while the OP described a traditional family structure, I wouldn't necessarily conflate that with traditional values: i.e. if my wife stayed at home to look after children, I would become the 'sole breadwinner', but it wouldn't make me "head of the family". Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 9:44

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