touchstone

noun
touch·​stone | \ ˈtəch-ˌstōn How to pronounce touchstone (audio) \

Definition of touchstone

1 : a fundamental or quintessential part or feature : basis a touchstone film of that decade now considered a touchstone of the city's life— Michael Specter
2 : a test or criterion for determining the quality or genuineness of a thing
3 : a black siliceous stone related to flint and formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the streak left on the stone when rubbed by the metal

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Choose the Right Synonym for touchstone

standard, criterion, gauge, yardstick, touchstone mean a means of determining what a thing should be. standard applies to any definite rule, principle, or measure established by authority. standards of behavior criterion may apply to anything used as a test of quality whether formulated as a rule or principle or not. questioned the critic's criteria for excellence gauge applies to a means of testing a particular dimension (such as thickness, depth, diameter) or figuratively a particular quality or aspect. polls as a gauge of voter dissatisfaction yardstick is an informal substitute for criterion that suggests quantity more often than quality. housing construction as a yardstick of economic growth touchstone suggests a simple test of the authenticity or value of something intangible. fine service is one touchstone of a first-class restaurant

Did You Know?

Our example sentence uses "touchstone" in its most recently acquired sense: "a fundamental part." The earlier sense, "a criterion for quality" (as in "I Love Lucy is often seen as a touchstone for comparison with today's TV comedy shows"), provides a better clue to the original meaning of "touchstone," however. The "criterion" sense, which goes back more than 470 years, alludes to a method of testing the purity of a sample of gold. The sample was rubbed on a piece of dark quartz or jasper - the "touchstone." The mark it made was compared to adjacent rubbings on the touchstone from gold of known purity. This method has proved accurate enough that touchstones are still used by jewelers today.

Examples of touchstone in a Sentence

Good service is one touchstone of a first-class restaurant. his book has long been a touchstone for travel writing that aspires to be literature

Recent Examples on the Web

Was there any concern about revealing something unexpected about cultural touchstones? Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Watch the Trailer for 7 Days Out, the New Netflix Series That Goes Inside a Chanel Couture Show and Other Landmark Events," 11 Dec. 2018 Orwell has become a touchstone for those who see the pursuit of truth as imperiled. New York Times, "New & Noteworthy," 1 May 2018 In more recent years, the band’s dream of collective liberation has become a touchstone for artists like Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, and Flying Lotus. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, "How George Clinton Made Funk a World View," 9 July 2017 In the spirit of inclusiveness, art critics and people with access to Twitter cited other touchstones of downright terrible likenesses, like the weird courtroom sketch of Tom Brady. New York Times, "Brandi Chastain Plaque Features a Face of Someone Who Is Not Brandi Chastain," 22 May 2018 Capps' musical touchstones include Nick Cave, Bob Dylan and in recent years, heavier acts like AC/DC. Matt Wake, AL.com, "Grammys, tequila and Travolta: a Gulf Coast love story," 18 Apr. 2018 And sharing a literary cultural touchstone is lethal to loneliness. Annie Daly, SELF, "16 Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy When You Travel A LOT, From People Who Do It," 6 Dec. 2018 It was rejected by at least 26 publishers and went on to be banned by more than a few school libraries, all in futile opposition to the millions of voracious readers worldwide who have since claimed L'Engle's book as a touchstone. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "Ava DuVernay puts a fantastically trippy spin on the messy, moving 'A Wrinkle in Time'," 7 Mar. 2018 The hype was helped by Grande’s teases on social media, which hinted that the video would be a homage to Mean Girls, a movie that has become a cultural touchstone for millennials. Patricia Hernandez, The Verge, "Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’ music video had over 765,000 people watching live," 30 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'touchstone.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of touchstone

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 3

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Statistics for touchstone

Last Updated

13 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for touchstone

The first known use of touchstone was in 1530

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More Definitions for touchstone

touchstone

noun

English Language Learners Definition of touchstone

: something that is used to make judgments about the quality of other things

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