main·​stay ˈmān-ˌstā How to pronounce mainstay (audio)
plural mainstays
: a crucial or key part of something
Fish is the mainstay of their diet.
Tourism is a mainstay of the city's economy.
The mainstay of treatment for chronic hives of unknown origin is antihistamine medications.Mayo Clinic Health Letter
: someone or something that is a principal or reliable support or resource
Tourism is one of the city's economic mainstays.
Her immense pride in him and unquestioning support were among the few mainstays in his life.Robert V. Remini
: a ship's stay (see stay entry 1 sense 1) extending from the maintop forward usually to the foot of the foremast

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 In its closure announcement posted on social media, the bar said that increasing business costs forced the Addison mainstay to shut down. Noor Adatia, Dallas News, 30 Aug. 2023 The film teams DiCaprio once again with Scorsese mainstay Robert De Niro. Matt Donnelly, Variety, 29 Aug. 2023 Wheatley has been a practice squad mainstay for the last two seasons. Conor Roche,, 28 Aug. 2023 Colin Firth Firth, who has been a Hollywood mainstay for years, was born September 10. Anna Kaufman, USA TODAY, 26 Aug. 2023 Culver City mainstay Maple Block Meat Co. has opened on Grand Central Market’s patio, taking over the former space of Horsethief BBQ along with its outdoor bar serving craft beer and wine. Stephanie Breijo, Los Angeles Times, 25 Aug. 2023 After Hawaii fires scorch historic church and school, Lahaina mourns loss of culture Lost to the flames in Lahaina were a 200-year-old church and a Hawaiian language school, both community mainstays for Native Hawaiians. Kimmy Yam, NBC News, 24 Aug. 2023 Moose and caribou are the two mainstays of an Alaskan wolf’s diet. Katie Hill, Outdoor Life, 23 Aug. 2023 The iconic Adidas Gazelles have been a mainstay in his shoe collection for years. Sophie Dweck, Town & Country, 13 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mainstay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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

Dictionary Entries Near mainstay

Cite this Entry

“Mainstay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


main·​stay -ˌstā How to pronounce mainstay (audio)
: a large strong rope running from the maintop of a ship usually to the foot of the foremast
: a chief support
the mainstay of the family

More from Merriam-Webster on mainstay

Last Updated: - Definition revised
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