linch·​pin | \ ˈlinch-ˌpin How to pronounce linchpin (audio) \
variants: or less commonly

Definition of linchpin

1 : a locking pin inserted crosswise (as through the end of an axle or shaft)
2 : one that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit the linchpin in the defense's case

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Did You Know?

There was the good old custom of taking the linch-pins out of the farmers' and bagmens' gigs at the fairs, and a cowardly blackguard custom it was. That custom, described by British writer Thomas Hughes in his 1857 novel Tom Brown's School Days, was "blackguard" indeed. The linchpin in question held the wheel on the carriage and removing it made it likely that the wheel would come off as the vehicle moved. Such a pin was called a "lynis" in Old English; Middle English speakers added "pin" to form "lynspin." Modern English speakers modified it to "linchpin" and, in the mid-20th century, began using the term figuratively for anything as critical to a complex situation as a linchpin is to a wagon.

Examples of linchpin in a Sentence

This witness is the linchpin of the defense's case.

Recent Examples on the Web

That saw Jorginho deployed as the midfield linchpin, and fan favourite N'Golo Kante shunted into a new, less favourable, role., "Jorginho Eyes Fresh Chelsea Start Under Frank Lampard After Distancing Himself From Maurizio Sarri," 25 July 2019 Huawei is one of China’s most successful global companies, and its status has become a linchpin in a widening dispute between the two countries over trade, technology and security matters. Don Lee,, "Trump and Xi agree to restart trade talks, put hold on new tariffs," 29 June 2019 The linchpin of the operation described in the federal indictment against Epstein were the recruiters — some of them victims themselves — who targeted girls as young as 13. Jennifer Peltz, The Denver Post, "Inside Jeffrey Epstein network, layer upon layer to protect the boss," 14 July 2019 The Spurs, however, were counting on the 29-year-old Morris to be the linchpin of a quietly successful offseason. Jeff Mcdonald,, "With Morris still in limbo, Gay and Carroll glad to ink Spurs deals," 11 July 2019 The retailer is also putting more inventory at e-commerce fulfillment centers that are the linchpin of its plan to expand free next-day shipping. Jennifer Smith, WSJ, "Today’s Logistics Report: Tangled Supply Chains; Walmart Stocking Up; Targeting Soybeans," 17 May 2019 The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, one of the linchpins in the arms-control framework that helped seal the end of the Cold War, is at risk of collapsing and fueling a new arms race. Michael R. Gordon, WSJ, "The History of a Cold War Missile Treaty," 1 Feb. 2019 In the time between McGriff’s stints on Gus Malzahn’s coaching staff, Thomas has gone from an unheralded role player to a senior leader and linchpin on defense entering his second season as a starter at strong safety. Tom Green |,, "Wes McGriff ‘thoroughly impressed’ with how much Daniel Thomas has changed since 2016," 6 June 2019 The linchpins of the effort are Israel and Saudi Arabia, which share a fear of Iranian expansionism and are the closest U.S. allies in the region. Karen Elliott House, WSJ, "Will Netanyahu Go to Riyadh?," 6 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'linchpin.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of linchpin

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for linchpin

Middle English lynspin, from lyns linchpin (from Old English lynis) + pin; akin to Middle High German luns linchpin

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Last Updated

6 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for linchpin

The first known use of linchpin was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for linchpin



English Language Learners Definition of linchpin

: a person or thing that holds something together : the most important part of a complex situation or system

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of or relating to the heavens

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