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be on the breadline

To be very poor, as if one could (or does) rely on food donations to survive. A "breadline" is a line of people seeking food distributed by a charitable or government agency. If I don't make a big sale this week, my family will be on the breadline. Sure, we have money now, but my grandmother grew up in a family that was on the breadline and lived in public housing.
See also: breadline, on

be/live on the breadline

  (British & Australian)
to be very poor
Usage notes: In America, breadlines were very poor people standing in a line waiting for free food provided by the government.
Most families of the unemployed are on the breadline. How many elderly people in Britain are living on the breadline?
See also: breadline, on

below the breadline

Extremely poor.
See also: below, breadline

on the breadline

Dependent on public donations of food.
See also: breadline, on