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

By the way, the Stella of the film’s title is a beautiful old dog in her dying days, a touchstone of grace lacking in her human family. Tom Keogh, The Seattle Times, "‘Stella’s Last Weekend’: Dog brings only grace to ill-conceived family affair," 25 Oct. 2018 Since the 1980s, the group’s writings have emphasized the heterogeneity of Caribbean history, the fundamental contiguity of life and literature with ecology, and a tradition of oral storytelling that has become the touchstone of Chamoiseau’s oeuvre. New York Times, "Fleeing a Caribbean Plantation Into a Mythic Wilderness," 27 June 2018 To a generation of sports fans in the Bay Area, Clark would forever be a touchstone. Chris Ballard,, "In Montana, a 49ers Reunion for Dwight Clark," 2 May 2018 Dangerous Visions has been hailed as a defining touchstone of the New Wave movement. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Harlan Ellison, one of science fiction’s most controversial authors, has died," 28 June 2018 Watergate has long been the touchstone for modern American scandal, the mountain of misconduct against which all others are judged. James Freeman, WSJ, "Where in the World Was Barack Obama?," 18 May 2018 Instead, the series comes off as the love child of the reality TV touchstone and last year’s Amazon Prime Video breakout, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel., "American Woman Review: Kyle Richards’ 70s Romp Is TV’s Breeziest New Show," 7 June 2018 The space shares stylistic touchstones with Voyager, particularly its wooden low-top tables and reclaimed schoolhouse seating, but there are a few added touches of glamour and a breeziness not offered at the team’s pint-sized Ferndale spot. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "First Look: Lovers Only begins slinging burgers out of stylish Capitol Park digs Friday," 8 Mar. 2018 And while the duo’s sonic touchstones overlap quite a bit, their sense of style differs in significant ways. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Husband-and-Wife Montreal Synth Duo Essaie Pas Break Down Their Minimal Sound and Style," 6 July 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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Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

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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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