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 In the neighborhoods where it was born and raised, however, Harold’s is a cultural touchstone for parts of the city that, to this day, remain starkly segregated. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "Harold's Chicken Shack is a Chicago icon. Here's what to try at the first Arizona location," 20 Nov. 2019 For regular customers, many of them frail or elderly, the pharmacy was a touchstone — a place to gather for gossip or a just a friendly smile and a few kind words. Erin Allday,, "Paradise Drug was an old-time pharmacy. It held on after the Camp Fire. Until now," 8 Nov. 2019 Heck, even the cover art is a pop culture touchstone. Joe Lynch, Billboard, "The Beatles' Abbey Road Turns 50: Classic Track-By-Track Review," 26 Sep. 2019 The idyllic image became a personal touchstone for Folds, crystalizing his view of the artist’s job: to share what often goes unnoticed. Jordan Runtagh,, "A Musical Memoir: Ben Folds Shares 10 Songs That Shaped His Life," 6 Aug. 2019 By the 1990s, pop-culture touchstones were firmly a part of the Keepsake experience, according to Braden. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "6,600 Hallmark ornaments just arrived at Henry Ford Museum: When you can see them," 25 Nov. 2019 The Chandler family's experience quickly became a touchstone for parental rights advocates. John D'anna, Arizona Republic, "A judge ruled The Republic had violated a court order in a controversial DCS case. Now, he has reversed that ruling," 12 Sep. 2019 The touchstones were, for me, so obvious, and grounded in a type of love for things and love for humanity and empathy. David Canfield,, "Jeffrey Wright on finding the soul of Hobie (and New York) in The Goldfinch," 11 Sep. 2019 Her academic criticism, in particular, has become a touchstone for both academics and other American writers. Caille Millner,, "Toni Morrison, conscience of a nation and first black woman to win Nobel Prize in literature, dead at 88," 6 Aug. 2019

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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Time Traveler for touchstone

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The first known use of touchstone was in 1530

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Last Updated

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Touchstone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce touchstone (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of touchstone

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

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