linchpin

play
noun linch·pin \ˈlinch-ˌpin\
variants: or less commonly

Definition of linchpin

  1. 1 :  a locking pin inserted crosswise (as through the end of an axle or shaft)

  2. 2 :  one that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit the linchpin in the defense's case

linchpin was our Word of the Day on 02/02/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of linchpin in a sentence

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

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.

Origin and Etymology of linchpin

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


First Known Use: 13th century

Other Mechanical Engineering Terms


LINCHPIN Defined for English Language Learners

linchpin

play
noun linch·pin \ˈlinch-ˌpin\

Definition of linchpin for English Language Learners

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

Learn More about linchpin


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up linchpin? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

capable of being understood in two ways

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ