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 The incident became a cultural touchstone, especially with students watching from their classrooms across the country. Jordan Kellogg, The Enquirer, "What you need to know to start your week: Will there be enough COVID-19 vaccine?," 26 Jan. 2021 For many, Sandy Hook became a touchstone against which subsequent efforts to address gun violence are evaluated. Philip M. Napoli, Wired, "The DC Riot Is the Sandy Hook of the Disinformation Crisis," 14 Jan. 2021 Being blessed was a conversational touchstone for him. Joseph Hoyt, Dallas News, "Parish Episcopal OL Austin Uke caps late recruiting rise by signing with Stanford," 3 Feb. 2021 The Wisconsin Capitol has been closed to the public for almost a year to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the statue was a literal touchstone for hundreds of thousands of visitors before the pandemic took hold. Todd Richmond, Star Tribune, "Navy pauses plan to move Wisconsin badger to Virginia museum," 1 Feb. 2021 January 6 should be a touchstone for evaluating our subsequent efforts to address disinformation. Philip M. Napoli, Wired, "The DC Riot Is the Sandy Hook of the Disinformation Crisis," 14 Jan. 2021 Rue is of course an integral touchstone in Jules’s conversation with Dr. Nichols. Angelica Jade Bastién, Vulture, "Euphoria Special Recap: Most Girls," 25 Jan. 2021 But these researchers have a clear goal, which is to place a touchstone for others who want to continue to explore the Fermi paradox. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "There Used to Be Aliens in Our Galaxy, but They Killed Themselves Off," 24 Dec. 2020 Although a 1951 film of the Dickens novel, with Alastair Sim as Scrooge, is regarded by fans as a touchstone, there is no definitive interpretation for the theater — no single acting text from which all creative teams draw. Washington Post, "Theaters are shut, but ‘A Christmas Carol’ is forever. The endless variety online proves it.," 17 Dec. 2020

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

27 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Touchstone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for touchstone



English Language Learners Definition of touchstone

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

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