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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
  • 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
  • We all have to keep the lock-step in business, and business is hell, Evan.

  • They are not marching in lock-step, but most of them are under guard just the same.

    Homeburg Memories George Helgesen Fitch
  • I lingered no longer, but put on the insignia of shame and got my first taste of marching the lock-step.

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

  • They moved slowly forward along the deserted tunnel, not unlike two convicts in lock-step.

    Beth Norvell Randall Parrish

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