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[meyn-stey] /ˈmeɪnˌsteɪ/
Nautical. the stay that secures the mainmast forward.
a person or thing that acts as a chief support or part:
Coffee is the mainstay of the country's economy.
Origin of mainstay
1475-85; main1 + stay2
2. pillar, bulwark, anchor, prop. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for mainstay
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He was really the mainstay of Sitting Bull's effective last stand.

    Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains [AKA Ohiyesa], Charles A. Eastman
  • Gory and grewsome,—he is the mainstay Of the historic novel of to-day.

    A Phenomenal Fauna Carolyn Wells
  • There was always a more or less assorted cargo, but the mainstay was wheat.

    Old Times on the Upper Mississippi George Byron Merrick
  • Stick to your two little sisters, boy; you must be their mainstay when I am gone.

    Tessa Louis Becke
  • For forty years he was, in fact, the mainstay of her Government.

    Ten Tudor Statesmen Arthur D. Innes
British Dictionary definitions for mainstay


(nautical) the forestay that braces the mainmast
a chief support
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mainstay

"chief support," 1787, figurative use of a nautical noun meaning "stay which extends from the main-top to the foot of the foremast" (late 15c.), from main (adj.) + stay (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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