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

Keep scrolling for more

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

This was a stunning about-face for a man who has previously made Christian opposition to LGBTQ identity — something more conservative Christians interpret as condemned by Jesus in the Bible — a mainstay of his public political identity. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The GOP can’t rely on white evangelicals forever," 7 Nov. 2018 But compare that with other mainstays of the Costco menu. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Costco's Food Court Is Getting Rid of the Polish Dog—It's Not Even the Most Unhealthy Thing on the Menu," 12 July 2018 And similarly, prices ending in 99 dollars are the mainstay at Apple, the world’s most valuable corporation. Adam Snitzer, miamiherald, "Why 9 is my favorite number," 12 July 2018 Natalia Reyes Photo: The Orchard Drug-war movies—a sub-genre that has long been a box-office mainstay—tend to be predictable, and bleak; no victors are declared, no punishments change the course of events. WSJ, "‘Birds of Passage’ Review: Splendor and the Grass," 14 Feb. 2019 Bloomberg News, the media conglomerate, and the Bloomberg Terminal, the financial software mainstay? Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Everybody Running for President in 2020," 18 Jan. 2019 With autopsies now a mainstay in criminal investigations, Dr. J.O. Sharber performed one on a young slave in Tennessee who was suspected of being pregnant and having been poisoned. Maude Campbell, Popular Mechanics, "The Complete History of the Autopsy," 26 Dec. 2018 In Enrique's first transfer window, out went first team mainstays Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez, along with Victor Valdes and the retiring Carles Puyol., "How Luis Enrique Must Force Quick Transition to Stop Spain Returning to the Mediocre Years," 10 July 2018 Since its founding in 1919, Houston Methodist Hospital has become a mainstay in the medical economy found in Houston that draws more than 7.2 million people from around the world seeking care every year. Marialuisa Rincon, Houston Chronicle, "Methodist Hospital celebrates its first year in The Woodlands," 7 July 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.

See More

First Known Use of mainstay

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mainstay

Statistics for mainstay

Last Updated

7 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mainstay

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


of or relating to a parable or parabola

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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