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1802, in military writing, for a very tight style of mass marching, from lock (n.) + step (n.).

Lock-step. A mode of marching by a body of men going one after another as closely as possible, in which the leg of each moves at the same time with and closely follows the corresponding leg of the person directly before him. [Thomas Wilhelm, "Military Dictionary and Gazetteer," Philadelphia, 1881]
Figurative use by 1836.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Examples from the Web for lock-step
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When we go off for lunch, we throw the machines into lock-step.

    Meeting of the Board Alan Edward Nourse
  • And there was no rising at the tap of the bell, forming in line and walking in lock-step.

    Back Home Eugene Wood
  • Walking in lock-step is not good exercise, and makes the men nervous.

    The Autobiography of a Thief Hutchins Hapgood
  • They are not marching in lock-step, but most of them are under guard just the same.

    Homeburg Memories George Helgesen Fitch
  • We all have to keep the lock-step in business, and business is hell, Evan.

  • Now, if there is any one manœuvre on which the Walton infantry prides itself, the "lock-step and sit-down" is that one.

  • Clark and Stars were fairly in lock-step behind Hall, and it was nip and tuck with the three until the tape was broken.

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