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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In his 1857 novel, Tom Brown's School Days, Thomas Hughes describes the "cowardly blackguard custom" of "taking the linch-pins out of the farmers' and bagmens' gigs at the fairs." The linchpin in question held the wheel on the gig 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. By the early 20th century, English speakers were using linchpin for anything as critical to a complex situation as a linchpin is to a wagon, as when Winston Churchill, in 1930, wrote of Canada and the role it played in the relationship between Great Britain and the United States, that "no state, no country, no band of men can more truly be described as the linchpin of peace and world progress."

Examples of linchpin in a Sentence

This witness is the linchpin of the defense's case.
Recent Examples on the Web But Abe did emerge as the linchpin in a new vision of Asian security, one that was loosely strung around cooperation with major regional democracies, with the United States also closely involved. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 11 July 2022 Eichenberg could be the run-stopping linchpin needed in a defense that will spread more safety help around him to help defend the pass. Nathan Baird, cleveland, 22 July 2022 Camilla, whose mother Rosalind, the linchpin of her family, also died in 1994, had lost everything—except Charles. Simon Usborne, Town & Country, 17 July 2022 The linchpin was going to be Belly because everything hangs around her. Emily Longeretta, Variety, 18 June 2022 Horford was the unexpected linchpin of the Boston Celtics’ 120-108 win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night, a victory that featured a furious fourth-quarter comeback against an opponent that rarely stumbles on its home court. Jared Diamond, WSJ, 3 June 2022 His greatest leverage is his naval blockade of the ports Ukraine needs to export wheat and other farm products, a linchpin of the Ukrainian economy and a major source of food for the world. New York Times, 27 May 2022 Pyre not only gives him a linchpin around which to build the narrative, but a focal point for the conflicts — both internal and external — that arise when modern-day members look back at church history that’s not generally talked about. Scott D. Pierce, The Salt Lake Tribune, 25 Apr. 2022 But after three seasons of being overlooked and underused, USC’s tight ends are finally expected to play a pivotal part in Lincoln Riley’s offense, and Wolfe, in the emerging role of H-back, could very well be its linchpin. Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

6 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Linchpin.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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