Make a Living: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
February 28, 2024

"Make a living" refers to earning enough money to support oneself, typically through regular employment or a consistent source of income. This phrase emphasizes the aspect of earning sufficient funds to cover the basic necessities of life, such as food, housing, and clothing. It is commonly used to describe someone's job or career, especially in the context of discussing how one sustains themselves financially.

In short:

  • It means earning enough money to support oneself and one's dependents.
  • It is often used in relation to one's job or career.

What Does "Make a Living" Mean?

"Make a living" is a phrase used to describe the act of earning money that is sufficient to cover one's basic expenses and maintain a certain standard of living. It implies a sense of stability and sustainability in one's income. The phrase does not necessarily denote wealth or financial abundance but rather the ability to meet everyday financial requirements through work or other income-generating activities.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It focuses on the practical aspect of earning money for survival and daily needs.
  • It can apply to various forms of employment, self-employment, or other regular income sources.
  • It is often discussed in the context of career choices, job satisfaction, and work-life balance.
  • It reflects the necessity of having a reliable income in order to sustain oneself and one's family.
  • It may also be used in discussions about job security and economic stability.

Where Does "Make a Living" Come From?

The phrase "make a living" has been in use for several centuries, with the word "living" in this context referring to the means of maintaining life or livelihood. Historically, "living" was used to denote the means by which one supports themselves, often through work or owning land. Over time, the phrase has evolved to broadly encompass earning an income through various forms of work or economic activity.

10 Examples of "Make a Living" in Sentences

Here are ten examples to illustrate the use of "make a living":

  • Many people make a living by working multiple part-time jobs.
  • Every morning, I pack my bag, excited to make a living doing what I love most.
  • She's always wanted to make a living doing something she loves.
  • Between jobs, I discovered unique ways to make a living that I never considered before.
  • They make a living by running a small family-owned restaurant.
  • After retiring, he started to make a living from his woodworking hobby.
  • No longer needing to punch a clock, I make a living as a freelancer with my own schedule.
  • Technological advancements have changed the way many people make a living.
  • I make a living as a writer, working into the wee hours when the world is quiet and my thoughts are loud.
  • It is high time I pursued my dreams, so I'm venturing out to make a living that brings joy and fulfillment.

Examples of "Make a Living" in Pop Culture

The concept of making a living is frequently explored in pop culture, often in the context of characters pursuing their dreams or dealing with economic challenges.

Pop culture examples:

  • "Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love" by Barbara J. Winter offers guidance on how to make a living by working when, where, and how you want, providing strategies for creating a self-reliant income without a traditional job.
  • "The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future" by Chris Guillebeau explores inspiring examples of individuals who have built successful businesses with small investments, highlighting how to lead a life of adventure, meaning, and purpose—and earn a good living.
  • In "In Time" (2011), Will Salas, played by Justin Timberlake, reflects on the nature of making a living in a future where time is currency, stating how people now make a living by trading time, hinting at the socio-economic disparities within the film's universe.
  • Philthy Rich's song "Make A Living" features lyrics that reflect on the hustle and the desire to make a living through various means, showcasing the artist's perspective on striving for financial stability and success.
  • "Another Way to Make a Living" (2022) is a film directed by André J. Witt, focusing on the story of Eric, who faces his biggest challenge yet, exploring themes of personal and professional struggle and the pursuit of alternative ways to make a living.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Make a Living"

Alternative expressions with similar meanings:

  • Earn a living
  • Support oneself
  • Earn one's keep
  • Make ends meet
  • Provide for oneself
  • Gain a livelihood
  • Earn one's bread and butter
  • Work for a living
  • Secure a livelihood
  • Sustain oneself

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Make a Living":

  • What does "make a living" mean?

"Make a living" refers to earning enough money to support oneself and cover basic life expenses.

  • Is "make a living" specific to any type of job?

No, it can apply to any job or means of earning income that provides financial stability.

  • Can "make a living" imply financial success?

Not necessarily. It implies sufficiency rather than wealth or financial success.

  • Is the phrase "make a living" formal or informal?

It's a neutral phrase that can be used in both formal and informal contexts.

  • How can I use "make a living" in a sentence?

You can use it to refer to someone's source of income, for example, "He makes a living as a teacher."

  • Can entrepreneurs use the term "make a living"?

Yes, entrepreneurs can use this term when referring to earning income from their businesses.

  • Does "make a living" only apply to traditional jobs?

No, it applies to any form of work or activity that generates income.

  • Can "make a living" be used in a creative career context?

Absolutely, it's often used in the context of creative careers, like artists or writers, to indicate earning income from their craft.

  • Is "make a living" a modern expression?

The phrase has been in use for several centuries, but it remains relevant in modern language.

  • Does "make a living" always involve a physical job?

No, it can involve any kind of work, including intellectual or creative work, that provides income.

Final Thoughts About "Make a Living"

"Make a living" is a widely used phrase that encapsulates the essential aspect of earning money to support oneself and one’s basic needs. It's applicable across various occupations and lifestyles, reflecting the universal need for financial stability and independence.

To recap:

  • It relates to earning enough money to cover basic expenses and needs.
  • Applicable to various forms of employment and income-generating activities.
  • Neutral in tone, suitable for a range of contexts.
  • Emphasizes the practical necessity of work in daily life.

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