What does the idiom "make a living" mean?

Although the meanings of the words in them do not make any sense when examined one by one, the word groups that are shaped according to the cultural roots of the language and that make sense as a whole are called idioms. make a living meaning, in what situations is it used?

Meaning of "make a living"


To ‘make a living’ is an idiom meaning to earn enough money to pay for the necessities of life. A person needs to make a living when they are not receiving money from any other sources and are fully responsible for their own financial stability. The phrase may also be used to refer to doing something one loves, such as a job or occupation. This idiom can be used figuratively as well, with the meaning that a person is making the best of a difficult situation.


The phrase ‘make a living’ first appeared in the English language in the early 17th century. It was originally used to refer to the act of making a living by tending to animals and harvesting crops, as this is how many people during this period earned their livelihood. Over time, the phrase began to take on a more general meaning, referring to any occupation a person may take up in order to survive. It is believed that the phrase is derived from the Latin ‘fecit vivere’, meaning ‘to make to live’.


The phrase ‘make a living’ is used in both formal and informal contexts. It can be used in conversations as well as in professional settings such as interviews and job applications. It is typically used to refer to a person’s primary occupation and is often used in the context of discussing career goals, financial stability, and more. It can also be used to describe someone’s situation in a more general sense, such as when they are struggling to make ends meet.

Example Sentences

  • I’m trying to make a living as a freelance writer.
  • She’s working two jobs just to make a living.
  • He was able to make a living selling his hand-crafted furniture.

The meanings of the words in the "make a living" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.


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