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 Amazon Music Prime is clearly a stepping stone to the more robust (and paid) Amazon Music Unlimited, which offers on-demand functionality, stations, and hi-res and audio, earning it an Editors' Choice award. PCMAG, 31 May 2024 Newsletter Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news Timor Island might not have been a stepping stone. Paul Smaglik, Discover Magazine, 22 May 2024 To bend the island metaphor to the squirrel’s perspective, Graham is less a stepping stone than a rock sinking under the rising sea of climate change. Brandon Loomis, The Arizona Republic, 20 May 2024 This year the Eagles had enough of being a stepping stone. Timothy Dashiell, Baltimore Sun, 7 Mar. 2024 While the American Classic has little to no direct impact on Douglas’ chances of making the Paris team, her performance Saturday was a crucial stepping stone and offered a glimpse at her training progress during this comeback. Kaetlyn Liddy, NBC News, 27 Apr. 2024 Trying to sleep, in patches, the wife crossed a rushing stream on stepping stones that were unsteady beneath her feet; below them, in the water, swarms of small dark sluglike creatures waited for her bare feet to slip. Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker, 15 Apr. 2024 Pots, troughs, stepping stones, garden ornaments can all be made of hypertufa. Kenneth Setzer, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024 Supervisor spots are highly coveted by Arizona politicos, often serving as a stepping stone to higher political office. Sasha Hupka, The Arizona Republic, 8 Apr. 2024

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 22 Jun. 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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