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English Idioms and Phrases: Bring home the bacon

Updated on November 14, 2012

Meaning

If you 'bring home the bacon' it is the equivalent of earning a salary or bringing home money that you have earned from work.

"you need to get a job, someone needs to bring home the bacon in this family" (so the family needs money, and they want the person to earn that from a new job)

"Brilliant, he's really bringing home the bacon" (The subject is earning a lot of money)

Origin

There are quite a few phrases in the English language that relate to meat from a pig, possibly due to the fact that bacon was a popular food in England from the medieval times to present day. Usually the use of the word bacon, when used in idioms, relates to the human body, or the well-being of it.

It has been debated for many years that the phrase 'bring home the bacon' dates back to medieval times, but it is generally accepted now that this phrase did not exist until the 20th century and comes from a boxing match.

Boxing has helped to create many idioms including 'punch above your weight' and 'below the belt' so it seems logical that the phrase originated here. In 1906 Joe Gans was fighting for the world lightweight championship against Oliver Nelson. Just before the fight he received a telegram from his mother saying:

"Joe, the eyes of the world are on you. Everybody says you ought to win. Peter Jackson will tell me the news and you bring home the bacon."

He went on to win the fight and replied to his mother saying he had not only won the bacon, but the gravy too. He also sent his mother a cheque for $6000. These telegrams were published in the papers and after this there are several boxing related uses of this phrase to describe winning the fight and earning the prize money.

Therefore to bring home the bacon became used to bring home money from work, or to earn a salary.

Alternatives or Synonyms

To earn money, to receive a salary.

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