[ king-pin ]
/ ˈkɪŋˌpɪn /


  1. headpin.
  2. the pin at the center; the number five pin.
Informal. the person of chief importance in a corporation, movement, undertaking, etc.
Informal. the chief element of any system, plan, or the like.
a kingbolt.
either of the pins that are a part of the mechanism for turning the front wheels in some automotive steering systems.

Nearby words

  1. kingklip,
  2. kinglake,
  3. kinglet,
  4. kingly,
  5. kingmaker,
  6. kings,
  7. kings canyon national park,
  8. kings mountain,
  9. kings park,
  10. kings peak

Origin of kingpin

First recorded in 1795–1805; king + pin Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for kingpin

British Dictionary definitions for kingpin


/ (ˈkɪŋˌpɪn) /


the most important person in an organization
the crucial or most important feature of a theory, argument, etc
Also called (Brit): swivel pin a pivot pin that provides a steering joint in a motor vehicle by securing the stub axle to the axle beam
tenpin bowling the front pin in the triangular arrangement of the ten pins
(in ninepins) the central pin in the diamond pattern of the nine pins
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

Word Origin and History for kingpin



also king-pin, 1801 as the name of the large pin in the game of kayles (similar to bowls except a club or stick was thrown instead of a ball; cf. "Games, Gaming and Gamesters' Laws," Frederick Brandt, London, 1871), from king with a sense of "chief" + pin (n.). The modern use is mainly figurative and is perhaps from the word's use as another name for the king-bolt (itself from 1825) in a machinery, though the figurative use is attested earlier (1867) than the literal.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper