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

Embedded in Biden’s medal story are the touchstones of his long career: foreign policy expertise, patriotism and perseverance through grief. Author: Matt Viser, Greg Jaffe, Anchorage Daily News, "As he campaigns for president, Joe Biden tells a moving but false war story," 29 Aug. 2019 Christopher Nolan’s 2010 sci-fi blockbuster Inception was an immediate touchstone. Jason Parham, WIRED, "Depth of Field: The Movie Poster Brexit Deserves," 22 Aug. 2019 For him, despite the early endorsement of Ted and Caroline Kennedy, the Kennedy years were no touchstone. David M. Shribman,, "Death of RFK’s granddaughter is latest burden for Kennedys," 3 Aug. 2019 The Thunder are still part of a league that is a cultural touchstone in this country. Dylan Hernandez,, "Kawhi Leonard played NBA's free-agency game to perfection," 7 July 2019 John Newton’s two-century-old hymn is a touchstone for serious artists in somber settings, almost a memorial cliche. Geoff Edgers, Washington Post, "Aretha: Her story was in her songs," 19 June 2019 About 20 million people visit Faneuil Hall every year, many of them seeking a touchstone of the American Revolution. New York Times, "Boston Grapples With Faneuil Hall, Named for a Slaveholder," 6 June 2018 The new park is described as the single-largest investment Comcast NBCUniversal has made in its theme park franchise and in the state as a whole, where its Universal resort has become a tourism touchstone. Isaac Feldberg, Fortune, "Universal Orlando Announces ‘Epic Universe’ Theme Park," 1 Aug. 2019 The new location is much smaller than Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel where that first Woodstock became a touchstone of the baby boomer generation. Randall Robertsstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Woodstock 50 festival moves to Maryland, but who’s on the bill?," 25 July 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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Statistics for touchstone

Last Updated

5 Sep 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

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readily or continually undergoing change

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