touch·​stone | \ ˈtəch-ˌstōn \

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

The paper also touched on immigration, a touchstone issue for many Brexit supporters. Jason Douglas, WSJ, "After a Week of Turmoil, British Government Publishes Its Plan for Brexit," 12 July 2018 Francis has long made environmentalism a touchstone issue of his papacy. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "Pope Francis condemns Trump’s family separation policy," 20 June 2018 These two events are touchstone events in right-wing, anti-government circles and the white supremacy movement. Michael Harriot, The Root, "New Evidence Shows the Vegas Shooter Was Probably a Far-Right Extremist, but No One Will Say It," 18 May 2018 The work of Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect responsible for the breathtaking TWA terminal at Kennedy Airport, is another Mendel touchstone. Kristina Stewart Ward, ELLE Decor, "Gilles Mendel's Fashion-Forward Home," 5 Jan. 2010 The shindig took place on Sunday (October 28) at the company's flagship location in Midtown Manhattan—the site of so many pop-culture touchstones, like Audrey Hepburn's croissant break and the proposal scene in Sweet Home Alabama. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Priyanka Chopra Had Her Bridal Shower at Tiffany's—and Her Dress Was Stunning," 29 Oct. 2018 There are many other pockets of the city and region that have drawn clusters of international communities still rich with their cultural touchstones. Craig Laban,, "Philly's best ethnic food neighborhoods | Craig LaBan," 4 June 2018 Not in a retrospective way, but just to have that as the focus; that was the touchstone. Joe Lynch, Billboard, "Judas Priest on New Album 'Firepower,' Their 'Beatles Moment' & Being Out In Metal," 9 Mar. 2018 My touchstones are Jean-Michel Frank, Giacometti, and Billy Baldwin. David A. Keeps, House Beautiful, "Designers Hillary Thomas and Jeff Lincoln on Decorating a 1960s Town House," 11 Apr. 2012

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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Last Updated

10 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for touchstone

The first known use of touchstone was in 1530

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English Language Learners Definition of touchstone

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

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Comments on touchstone

What made you want to look up touchstone? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a complex dispute or argument

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