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

The Wildecats have their entire back line returning and Geralis, a four-year starter, is the linchpin. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "2019 Baltimore-area girls soccer players to watch," 2 Sep. 2019 Combined, Quebec and its larger neighbor Ontario have about two-thirds of Canada’s population, making them a linchpin to the prime minister’s re-election hopes. Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, "Trudeau, in Trouble in Much of Canada, Still Has Fans in Quebec," 17 Aug. 2019 Haspel has become the CIA’s linchpin to the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, its most important foreign partner. Shane Harris, Washington Post, "The quiet director: How Gina Haspel manages the CIA’s volatile relationship with Trump," 31 July 2019 Because bees are a linchpin to the industry that feeds us. National Geographic, "Episode 8: Honeybee chop shop," 30 July 2019 With midfield linchpin Kevin De Bruyne limping off in the first half and the Belgian's teammates looking lost for ideas, City's £60m record purchase rose to the occasion to score the decisive goal of the game., "Bournemouth vs Man City Preview: Where to Watch, Buy Tickets, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News," 22 Aug. 2019 The warrant was the linchpin for the entire investigation and uncovered evidence that justified future searches. Evan Sernoffsky,, "Adachi leak: What each judge knew before authorizing police searches of SF journalist," 13 Aug. 2019 The linchpin of the operation described in the federal indictment against Epstein consisted of the recruiters — some of them victims themselves — who targeted girls as young as 13. Michael R. Sisak,, "Indictment claims Jeffrey Epstein had extensive network to procure young victims," 14 July 2019 While it was designed to attract new businesses and residents, the expo’s greatest legacy was the solidification of the Navy as San Diego’s economic linchpin. Roger Showley, San Diego Union-Tribune, "250 years of San Diego," 30 June 2019

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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Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

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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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to spread over or through

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