Definition of earn one's keep in US English:

earn one's keep


  • 1Work in return for food and accommodations.

    • ‘It used to be that young people were expected to start earning their keep very early, we had to make laws to prohibit child labour.’
    • ‘‘My father is a big proponent of tradition and earning your keep,’ Wright says.’
    • ‘He has very little business this time of year, so it makes sure the stableboys are earning their keep.’
    • ‘In other parts of Sweden, like Norrbotten, there were workhouses which poor children attended, earning their keep by doing most of the daily domestic work.’
    • ‘It's time for you to start earning your keep around here.’
    • ‘The plantation owner and his family allowed him to live by himself on their property and earn his keep by performing house chores and milking cows.’
    • ‘If they were, then they would have been earning their keep and fending for themselves, like everyone else is supposed to do.’
    • ‘‘You will start earning your keep tomorrow, Peter,’ said Orikichal smoothly, dismissing the faery servant with a wave of his hand.’
    • ‘Mother has been complaining that since I don't contribute any money to the household I should be earning my keep through domestic work.’
    • ‘But to our ancestors, kids were an addition to the family workforce and had to earn their keep.’
    1. 1.1 Be worth the time, money, or effort spent on one.
      • ‘I have long been of the opinion that there is always a group of stars who are paid a whole lot of money, but who earn their keep.’
      • ‘Sounds like the drug lobbyists are earning their keep.’
      • ‘He earns his keep with a subtle musical touch that gradually becomes the overwhelming reason why you'll love this record.’
      • ‘Franklin has surveyed ranchers using llamas to protect sheep, and found that llamas seem to be earning their keep.’
      • ‘That is how literary agents earn their keep and justify their existence.’
      • ‘She earns her keep though by competently catching all the bugs and critters that come into our Texas home.’
      • ‘If we're going to welcome in all this new talent, it's time to sweep out some of the wrestlers who haven't been earning their keep.’
      • ‘His production hasn't matched his paycheck, but this might be the year he earns his keep.’
      • ‘There are graceful conifers such as the Kashmir cypress and great pines earning their keep as windbreaks.’
      • ‘After a few years of hand waving, PowerPoint presentations and whiteboard discussions, investors began demanding that we start earning our keep by making a profit.’