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

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 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a stone on which to step (as in crossing a stream)
: something aiding in progress or advancement
a stepping-stone to success
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?