bread and butter

1620–30 Unabridged


providing a livelihood or basic source of income; supplying the basic needs of life: a bread-and-butter job; the agency's bread-and-butter account.
of or relating to basic needs: housing and other bread-and-butter political issues.
basic or everyday; staple; routine.
expressing thanks for hospitality: a bread-and-butter letter.

1720–30; adj. use of noun phrase bread and butter Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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World English Dictionary
bread and butter
1.  (modifier) a means of support or subsistence; livelihood: the inheritance was their bread and butter
2.  bread-and-butter
 a.  providing a basic means of subsistence: a bread-and-butter job
 b.  solid, reliable, or practical: a bread-and-butter player
 c.  expressing gratitude, as for hospitality (esp in the phrase bread-and-butter letter)

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

bread and butter

  1. The essential, sustaining element, as in The quality of the schools is the bread and butter of town property values. This idiom alludes to a basic food, bread spread with butter. [c. 1700]

  2. Means of livelihood, as in John's job is the family's bread and butter. [First half of 1700s]

  3. Ordinary, routine, as in Don't worry about it; this is just a bread and butter assignment. [Second half of 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Since that time, doing research has been my daily bread and butter.
And to go with all the vegetable-centric dishes we've been dreaming up, we've
  gotta have good bread and butter.
It might create a panic too, but human chaos is their bread and butter.
Bees' bread and butter is flowers-there's no reason they should be able to
  distinguish human faces.
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