linch·​pin ˈlinch-ˌpin How to pronounce linchpin (audio)
variants or less commonly
: a locking pin inserted crosswise (as through the end of an axle or shaft)
: one that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit
the linchpin in the defense's case

Did you know?

In his 1857 novel, Tom Brown's School Days, Thomas Hughes describes the "cowardly blackguard custom" of "taking the linch-pins out of the farmers' and bagmens' gigs at the fairs." The linchpin in question held the wheel on the gig 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. By the early 20th century, English speakers were using linchpin for anything as critical to a complex situation as a linchpin is to a wagon, as when Winston Churchill, in 1930, wrote of Canada and the role it played in the relationship between Great Britain and the United States, that "no state, no country, no band of men can more truly be described as the linchpin of peace and world progress."

Examples of linchpin in a Sentence

This witness is the linchpin of the defense's case.
Recent Examples on the Web Earlier this year, Roseberry created Schiaparelli’s first full ready-to-wear collection: a linchpin of the house’s growth plans, and also of its first real—and yet still precious—retail expansion. Nathan Heller, Vogue, 29 Aug. 2023 But its critical role as a linchpin of the West’s military, humanitarian and diplomatic support for Ukraine has coexisted with a government agenda increasingly driven by domestic politics. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, 22 Aug. 2023 Comcast’s goal will be making things tough for the Magic Kingdom The importance that Iger accords Hulu as a linchpin in its revival playbook puts Comcast in a strong position to squeeze Disney. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 15 July 2023 Read full article Connor Wong, Triston Casas, and Brayan Bello have followed Duran’s lead, becoming the young linchpins to a team that is in the playoff hunt. Julian McWilliams,, 28 July 2023 The big-box stores brought a piece of the suburbs to the city, and Bed Bath & Beyond was the cavernous linchpin, growing to encompass two floors and 92,000 square feet of space. Clio Chang, Curbed, 27 Apr. 2023 The number of soap operas, a decades-old linchpin of daytime television, has fallen to a small handful. John Koblin, New York Times, 29 June 2023 Expectations are sky-high for Warner Bros.’ reboot of the Superman franchise, which has long been one of the linchpins of the larger DC cinematic universe. Josh Rottenberg, Los Angeles Times, 27 June 2023 But for those familiar with the battery’s story, Dr. Goodenough’s contribution is regarded as the crucial link in its development, a linchpin of chemistry, physics, and engineering on a molecular scale. Robert D. McFadden,, 26 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'linchpin.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near linchpin

Cite this Entry

“Linchpin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


linch·​pin ˈlinch-ˌpin How to pronounce linchpin (audio)
: a pin inserted crosswise through something (as the end of an axle or shaft) to keep things in place
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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