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Related to trade on: trade down
trade on something
to use a fact or a situation to one's advantage. Tom was able to trade on the fact that he had once been in the army. John traded on his poor eyesight to get a seat closer to the stage.
Profit by, exploit, as in The children of celebrities often trade on their family names. [Late 1800s]
trade onor trade upon
To put something to calculated and often unscrupulous advantage; exploit something: The children of celebrities sometimes trade on their family names to receive special treatment. People expect me to trade upon my height and join the basketball team, but I play badly.