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

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., "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 The linchpin of the new plan is a 20,000-square-foot Collections Wing addition to Saarinen's building. Craig Kellogg, ELLE Decor, "A Museum Makeover," 20 Dec. 2011 But last year, as part of the GOP tax overhaul, Trump successfully repealed the individual mandate penalty--which was the linchpin of Obama’s signature health care law. Brooke Singman, Fox News, "Trump unravels more of Obama's legacy, with proposed freeze on mileage rules," 3 Aug. 2018 The sister of a longtime addict, Sergent has made drug abuse and treatment a linchpin of her underdog Democratic run to unseat a Republican congressman in November’s midterms. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "For West Virginia Congressional Candidate Talley Sergent, the Politics of Drug Addiction Are Personal," 7 Aug. 2018 The handwritten accounting document, called in Ukraine the Black Ledger, is an evidential linchpin for investigating corruption in the former government. New York Times, "Ukraine, Seeking U.S. Missiles, Halted Cooperation With Mueller Investigation," 2 May 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.

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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

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

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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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marked by a state of overwhelming emotion

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