stepping stone


variants or less commonly stepping-stone
plural stepping stones also stepping-stones
: a stone on which to step (as in crossing a stream or following a path)
We filled our water bottles in a large, clear lake set in smooth granite, crossed a stream using stepping stones, and started up a winding path that rose to a series of switchbacks.Joshua Rothman
As in a Japanese garden, where stepping-stones force you to savor your stroll, you must watch every step and wind your way around the Japanese pines and beach grasses.Stephen Drucker
: a means of progress or advancement
a stepping stone to success
But now many more see a political job as a stepping stone to money, power and influence.Barbara Gamarekian
Each person I talked to was to be a stepping-stone to the overall plan. It was my job to educate them so they would take their natural places in the plan.Jane Smiley

Examples of stepping stone in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The catch for women is that men dominate positions seen as internal stepping stones to the corner office, including CFO and COO jobs and senior roles that involve managing profits and losses and growing the company’s business. Lila MacLellan, Fortune, 20 Feb. 2024 Athletes who perform well in the weight throw use that as a stepping stone for success in the hammer throw. Katelyn Hutchison, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 The Santa Barbara Film Festival, which this year runs from Feb. 7 to 17, is a major stepping stone for award contenders in the lead-up to the Academy Awards. Jack Smart, Peoplemag, 12 Feb. 2024 Such belief permeates his nurturing paternalism, allowing his home and workplace to transform into training forums where mistakes are not just allowed, but celebrated as stepping stones for learning and evolution. Chris Gallagher, USA TODAY, 24 Jan. 2024 Their global migration is made possible by a connected chain of habitats that act as stepping stones from their breeding to their wintering grounds — stepping stones that these birds have depended on for thousands of years. Julie Wraithmell, Sun Sentinel, 2 Jan. 2024 In Tallahassee, where DeSantis turned the state Capitol into a stepping stone for his presidential ambitions, some of his staunchest supporters say he’s not done yet. Max Greenwood, Miami Herald, 23 Jan. 2024 That said, the landscape is hilly and pathways are made from stepping stones, leaving most of the resort off-limits to guests with limited mobility. Chris Schalkx, Travel + Leisure, 4 Jan. 2024 But that’s likely because the role often serves as a stepping stone for CEO aspirants, according to Spencer Stuart. Ruth Umoh, Fortune, 10 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'stepping stone.' 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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of stepping stone was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near stepping stone

Cite this Entry

“Stepping stone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a stone on which to step (as in crossing a stream)
: something aiding in progress or advancement
a stepping-stone to success
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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