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 And in Michigan, which was another linchpin of Trump’s 2016 victory in the Electoral College, a new poll released on Monday showed Biden doubling his lead, to twelve points, compared with a survey that the same pollster, EPIC-MRA, took in January. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Why the Polls Are Alarming for Donald Trump," 10 June 2020 Social distancing seems to be the linchpin leading Avon and other communities to make the decision to close their pools. Linda Gandee, cleveland, "Avon pool closing was difficult decision in this coronavirus summer," 8 June 2020 College leaders say widespread virus testing will be the linchpin to a safe reopening. Collin Binkley, Houston Chronicle, "Colleges plan fall opening, but campuses won't look the same," 21 May 2020 Since 2015, when a mixed-use vision for the highly visible corner surfaced, replacing the Cleveland Public Library’s 1970s-vintage Martin Luther King Jr. branch on Stokes has been the linchpin for the broader project. Michelle Jarboe, cleveland, "Circle Square project in Cleveland’s University Circle to include 24-story apartment tower," 20 Feb. 2020 Given his leadership role in Washington, Neal is the linchpin for federal funding. Jon Chesto,, "Springfield-Boston rail service? Lawmaker’s message is that it’s long overdue," 22 Jan. 2020 The linchpin of the evaluation is the sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score, which measures function in six key organs and systems. Susie A. Han, STAT, "Allocate ventilators, other Covid-19 resources based on evidence, not political hunches," 17 Mar. 2020 But in an era of hyper-partisanship, Collins’s centrism, the linchpin of her political staying power, has come under an uncomfortable microscope. David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, "Democrats gunning for moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins as centrist Maine polarizes," 22 Apr. 2020 The bag-valve mask is the linchpin of the ApolloBVM prototype, said Thomas Herring, a senior at Rice in computer engineering and robotics who is leading the project. Sara Castellanos, WSJ, "Rice University Engineers ‘MacGyver’ an Inexpensive Ventilator for Coronavirus Patients," 2 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for linchpin

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

18 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Linchpin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for linchpin


How to pronounce linchpin (audio)

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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