Understanding the Idiom: "take the bread out of someone's mouth" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The Meaning Behind “Take the Bread Out of Someone’s Mouth”

The phrase “take the bread out of someone’s mouth” has a literal meaning that refers to taking food away from someone who needs it to survive. In its idiomatic use, however, it refers to depriving someone of their means of earning a living. This could be through unfair competition, job loss, or any other circumstance that results in financial hardship.

The Origin and History

The exact origin of this idiom is unclear, but it likely dates back centuries when people relied on agriculture and manual labor for survival. In those times, losing one’s source of income could mean starvation for oneself and one’s family. As society evolved and became more industrialized, this idiom continued to be used as a metaphor for economic hardship.

Today, “taking the bread out of someone’s mouth” remains an evocative expression that conveys both empathy for those experiencing financial difficulties and condemnation towards those responsible for causing them.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth”

The idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth” has been used for centuries to describe a situation where one person or group takes away another person’s means of survival. This phrase can be traced back to ancient times when food was scarce, and people had to fight for their daily sustenance.

Throughout history, there have been many instances where individuals or groups have taken advantage of others by taking away their sources of income or livelihood. For example, during the Industrial Revolution in England, factory owners would often pay workers very low wages, making it difficult for them to provide for themselves and their families.

In modern times, this idiom is still commonly used in situations where a person or group is being deprived of their basic needs. It can refer to anything from job loss due to outsourcing or automation to government policies that limit access to healthcare or education.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth”

The idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth” is a commonly used phrase that refers to depriving someone of their livelihood or source of income. This idiom can be used in various situations where one person or entity takes away another’s means of sustenance.

There are several variations and contexts in which this idiom can be used. For example, it can refer to an employer who lays off employees without providing them with any financial support, leaving them without a means to earn a living. It can also refer to a government policy that reduces funding for social welfare programs, leaving vulnerable populations without access to basic necessities such as food and shelter.

Furthermore, this idiom can also be applied in personal relationships where one partner may take away opportunities from another that would have helped them financially. In some cases, it could even refer to family members who intentionally or unintentionally cause harm by taking away resources from others.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth”


  • Deprive someone of their livelihood
  • Rob someone of their means of subsistence
  • Take away someone’s source of income
  • Put someone out of work
  • Cut off one’s financial support

These synonyms emphasize the notion that taking away someone’s bread is equivalent to depriving them of their ability to earn a living or support themselves financially.


  • Provide for one’s needs
  • Create job opportunities for others
  • Increase one’s earning potential
  • Promote economic growth and stability
  • Foster an environment conducive to entrepreneurship

The antonyms highlight actions that contribute positively to people’s economic well-being rather than taking something away from them.

Cultural Insights:

In many cultures, providing food is seen as a fundamental responsibility towards family members or fellow human beings. Therefore, taking away somebody’s “bread” can be interpreted as a violation not only of individual rights but also social norms. This idiom reflects the importance placed on access to basic necessities such as food and shelter in different societies around the world.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth”

Exercise 1: Write a short paragraph using the idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth” in context. Be sure to include who or what is taking away the livelihood, and how it affects the person or group.

Example: The new law that restricts street vendors from selling their goods after 8pm takes the bread out of their mouths. Many families rely on this income to survive, and now they are left without a way to support themselves.

Exercise 2: Create a dialogue between two people where one accuses the other of taking away their livelihood using this idiom. Use different scenarios such as a boss firing an employee, a competitor stealing business, or a government regulation limiting opportunities.


Person A: You’re taking food off my table by undercutting my prices!

Person B: I’m just trying to stay competitive in this market.

Person A: But you know I can’t afford to lower my prices any further. You’re taking the bread out of my mouth!

Exercise 3: Watch a news segment or read an article about an issue affecting people’s livelihoods (such as job loss due to automation) and identify instances where this idiom could be used appropriately. Write down at least three examples.

Remember, practice makes perfect! By incorporating these exercises into your language learning routine, you’ll become more confident in your ability to understand and use idiomatic expressions like “take the bread out of someone’s mouth”.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth”

When using idioms in conversation or writing, it is important to understand their meaning and usage. The idiom “take the bread out of someone’s mouth” is no exception. This phrase is often used to describe a situation where one person takes away another person’s source of income or livelihood.

Avoiding Literal Interpretation

One common mistake when using this idiom is taking it too literally. While the phrase mentions bread and mouth, it does not refer to actual food being taken away from someone. Instead, it refers to a person losing their means of earning money or supporting themselves.

Using Proper Context

Another mistake people make when using this idiom is not considering the context in which it should be used. It should only be used in situations where someone’s livelihood or income is at stake, such as a job loss or business closure. Using this phrase casually can diminish its impact and importance.

  • Avoid using this idiom in situations where there are no real consequences for losing income.
  • Use appropriate language and tone when discussing serious topics related to employment and financial stability.
  • Avoid making light of situations that involve potential harm to others’ livelihoods.
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: