meal ticket

When people talk about a meal ticket, they usually mean a person, thing, or skill that provides income. For example, you might describe your ability to knit cute arm warmers as a possible meal ticket.

If you marry a wealthy person, friends might gossip that you're using her as a meal ticket, but they're just as likely to compliment your jazz piano skill as a meal ticket. The phrase originally meant, literally, a paper coupon that could be redeemed for food. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, young workers often dined using meal tickets that provided a week's work of discounted lunches at restaurants. The figurative meaning came soon after.

Definitions of meal ticket
  1. noun
    coupon redeemable at a restaurant and entitling the holder to a meal
    synonyms: luncheon voucher
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    type of:
    coupon, voucher
    a negotiable certificate that can be detached and redeemed as needed
  2. noun
    a source of income or livelihood
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    type of:
    bread and butter, keep, livelihood, living, support, sustenance
    the financial means whereby one lives
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