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A person or thing used to provide permanent financial income. This new business was supposed to be my meal ticket, but it's costing me more money than I'm making. I'm a model, so my face is my meal ticket, and I can't afford to have a blemish!
A person or thing depended on as a source of income, as in Magic Johnson was a real meal ticket for his team, or Her interpersonal skills will be her meal ticket when she goes into sales. This metaphoric expression alludes to the earlier practice of handing out tickets that entitle their holder to a meal. [Early 1900s]
a meal ticket
If you describe something or someone as a meal ticket, you mean that they are a way of getting all the money that you need throughout your life. A degree has never been a meal ticket, but the recession is making life for graduates tougher than ever. He was wealthy. I think she saw him as a life-long meal ticket.
a ˈmeal ticket(informal) a person or thing that you see only as a source of money and food: He suspected that he was just a meal ticket for her. ♢ I hoped the guitar would become my meal ticket.
A source of financial support, particularly from one of the opposite sex. This transfer from a literal ticket that entitles one to a meal in a restaurant or other facility took place around 1900. At first it was used mainly for a sugar daddy, but in time it was broadened. Thus on May 22, 1949, the New York Times had it, “Man and Superman [the play] . . . is the title of [actor] Maurice Evans’ current meal ticket.”