main·​stay | \ ˈmān-ˌstā How to pronounce mainstay (audio) \

Definition of mainstay

1 : a ship's stay extending from the maintop forward usually to the foot of the foremast
2 : a chief support

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Examples of mainstay in a Sentence

Fish is a mainstay of their diet. My mother has always been the mainstay of our family.

Recent Examples on the Web

The label has been a mainstay in Brazil since its inception in 1997 when Kátia Barros and Marcello Bastos started it out of a marketplace in Rio de Janeiro. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "This Brazilian Brand Is About to Become Every Fashion Girl’s Favorite," 19 Mar. 2019 Getty Images 51-year-old Julia Roberts has been a mainstay on our screens since her debut in the 1988 film Satisfaction, and she's proven over and over again that her beauty is timeless. Maya Allen, Marie Claire, "Julia Roberts' New Tousled Lob Is the Shortest Cut She's Worn in Years," 18 Mar. 2019 Keeps Getting Better Sleek hair is a mainstay on modern runways, but designers keep finding ways to make slicked-back styles feel fresh. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "7 Beauty Trends That Ruled the New York Runways This Weekend," 11 Feb. 2019 The fall trend has also been a mainstay on Japan's beauty scene for quite some time now. Sarah Wu, Glamour, "I Thought Orange Blush Sounded Gaudy Until I Tried It," 30 Oct. 2018 Steele lost his bid for a second term to Reince Priebus, and since 2011 has been a mainstay on cable news. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "CPAC Communications Director: RNC Wrong To Elect ‘A Black Guy’ as Head," 24 Feb. 2018 Efforts to counter the opioid epidemic would be dealt a severe blow, since Medicaid has become a mainstay for treatment. Mark Sherman, The Seattle Times, "After judge’s ruling against Obamacare, what happens now?," 17 Dec. 2018 Two Army mainstays scheduled for cuts—the Bradley fighting vehicle, dating to the 1980s, and the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, first introduced in 1962—are known to generations of service members. Gordon Lubold, WSJ, "Army Plans to Cut Back on Legacy Gear in a Push for New Tech," 12 Mar. 2019 Mermaid Oyster Bar Co-owned by: Zach Braff The Mermaid Oyster Bar in New York’s Greenwich Village is a mainstay known, of course, for its stellar oyster selection. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "9 Celebrity Owned Bars That Are Worth the Hype," 20 Dec. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mainstay.' 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 mainstay

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for mainstay

Last Updated

18 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for mainstay

The first known use of mainstay was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for mainstay



English Language Learners Definition of mainstay

: a very important part of something : something or someone that provides support and makes it possible for something to exist or succeed


main·​stay | \ ˈmān-ˌstā How to pronounce mainstay (audio) \

Kids Definition of mainstay

1 : the large strong rope from the maintop of a ship usually to the foot of the foremast
2 : a chief support the mainstay of the family

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More from Merriam-Webster on mainstay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mainstay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mainstay

Spanish Central: Translation of mainstay

Nglish: Translation of mainstay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mainstay for Arabic Speakers

Comments on mainstay

What made you want to look up mainstay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


highly pertinent or appropriate

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