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skeleton key

a key with nearly the whole substance of the bit filed away so that it may open various locks.
Also called passkey.
Origin of skeleton key
First recorded in 1800-10 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for skeleton key
Historical Examples
  • Then a skeleton key had been used, for there was the key in the lock at this moment.

    Three People Pansy
  • I have suspected him of possessing a skeleton key to my apartments.

    Anna the Adventuress E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • It must have been done from the window, unless someone had a skeleton key.

  • Nancy had solved that with a skeleton key bought at the five and ten.

  • "Come on," he said, thrusting his skeleton key into the inner door.

  • Was there a bank official to be264 bribed or a skeleton key to be made?

    Remarkable Rogues

    Charles Kingston
  • This could be opened by a skeleton key owned by Erris Boyne.

    No Defense, Complete Gilbert Parker
  • To wipe your feet carefully on the common doormat before letting yourself in another's premises with a skeleton key.

    The Roycroft Dictionary Elbert Hubbard
  • He locked the door of the closet with a skeleton key, and went his way to fetch the Countess home.

    A Group of Noble Dames Thomas Hardy
  • He had already introduced a skeleton key into the lock, when a loud exclamation was heard from the crowd outside the gate.

    The Widow Lerouge Emile Gaboriau
British Dictionary definitions for skeleton key

skeleton key

a key with the serrated edge filed down so that it can open numerous locks Also called passkey
Word Origin
C19: so called because it has been reduced to its essential parts
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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