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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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 But four months later, neither the canal, a linchpin of the global supply chain, nor the shipping industry that depends on it has addressed some of the most critical issues that led to the grounding., 18 July 2021 The linchpin of the department’s effort to prevent violence is building a network of people who can respond directly to individuals and families of victims. Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 July 2021 Since Cowher's retirement following the 2006 season, Roethlisberger developed into the linchpin of an organization long defined by defense, leading the Steelers to two more AFC titles and another Lombardi Trophy to cap the 2008 season. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, 13 July 2021 Nicolas Batum, a linchpin of Clippers comebacks, played only 16 minutes Tuesday because of fatigue and reasons related to the matchup, Lue said. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 24 June 2021 The picture that emerges from the collection of these studies is that NSP3 is a linchpin of early functions required for virus replication. William A. Haseltine, Forbes, 4 June 2021 Now, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, wallpaper is a linchpin in a marvelously multidimensional installation by Cauleen Smith. Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2021 Martinez is back to being a power hitter who also hits for average, a linchpin in the lineup., 1 May 2021 The governor’s California Comeback Plan, the linchpin of his campaign against the recall, has been buoyed by record tax revenues and the ability to hand out $8 billion in stimulus checks to struggling Californians. Taryn Luna, Los Angeles Times, 4 June 2021

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

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Last Updated

25 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Linchpin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Aug. 2021.

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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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