linchpin

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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 | Tgreen@al.com, al.com, "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 The wild early days of heart research had coincided with the period when NASA was trying to put a man on the moon, and Houston became the linchpin of both engineering efforts. Henry Petroski, WSJ, "‘Ticker’ Review: The Race to Reinvent the Heart," 3 Aug. 2018 Perhaps Assad’s largest asset is Syria’s position as a geographic linchpin on the Mediterranean and in the heart of the Arab world. Sarah El Deeb, The Seattle Times, "Syria’s Assad: Last man standing amid new Arab uprisings," 13 Apr. 2019 Unlike the Volt, though, the Bolt is the linchpin to GM’s plans for the future. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "GM is laying off thousands of workers, closing three plants, and ending production of the Chevy Volt," 26 Nov. 2018 The Corinthians midfielder is said to have impressed during his time with the Brazilian outfit after becoming a linchpin in Fabio Carille’s title-winning team last season. SI.com, "Arsenal Dealt Blow in Pursuit of Brazilian Starlet With Shakhtar Donetsk Deal Close," 24 Mar. 2018 One of the linchpins of this relationship was weapons sales. Sam Ellis, Vox, "How the Saudis ended up with so many American weapons," 17 Dec. 2018 Dispatchers are a linchpin of the nation’s emergency-response infrastructure. Sarah Krouse, WSJ, "911 Emergency: Call Centers Can’t Find Workers," 4 Aug. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about linchpin

Listen to Our Podcast about linchpin

Statistics for linchpin

Last Updated

11 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for linchpin

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for linchpin

linchpin

noun

English Language Learners Definition of linchpin

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

More from Merriam-Webster on linchpin

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with linchpin

Comments on linchpin

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

to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!