linchpin

noun
linch·pin | \ ˈlinch-ˌpin \
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

During those decades, satellites had become linchpins of the American military apparatus and the global economy. Garrett M. Graff, WIRED, "The New Arms Race Threatening to Explode in Space," 26 June 2018 Today, the state law enacted in 1932, known as the Sterling Act, is a linchpin of the city treasury, and has a lot to do with why Pennsylvania’s local-taxation system is so different from New Jersey’s. Laura Mccrystal, Philly.com, "The soda tax and the Great Depression: The 1932 law that forever changed Philly's taxes," 25 May 2018 Just how close were the Brewers to not breaking camp with Jesus Aguilar, who has become the team's linchpin on offense? Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers Podcast: Jesus Augilar leads Brewers' offensive revival," 21 May 2018 Kevin’s parents, Ken and Carol Sharp, also must tend to the family beer business, Southwest Distributing Co. Kevin had become a linchpin in the firm as Ken eased into retirement. USA TODAY, "Relatives hold funeral for Iowa family found dead in Mexico as questions remain," 31 Mar. 2018 Bourdain quickly became one of the principal faces of the network and one of the linchpins of the prime time schedule. Brian Stelter, CNN, "CNN's Anthony Bourdain dead at 61," 8 June 2018 California is a linchpin to Democrats' path to taking back the House, but so are races in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Minnesota. Amber Phillips, Washington Post, "The top 10 House races of 2018 still heavily favor Democrats," 8 June 2018 The sedan is the linchpin to the company’s efforts to bring more affordable electric vehicles to the masses and achieve profitability. Bloomberg, Fortune, "5 Things to Expect at Tesla's Heated Shareholder Meeting Today," 5 June 2018 But the linchpin may be the $200 million hotel, the county’s tallest building. Meredith Cohn, baltimoresun.com, "Cordish Companies to open Live Hotel, adding to casino complex in Hanover," 3 June 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

Statistics for linchpin

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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

See 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

occurring twice a year or every two years

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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