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.

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

Contemporary Examples of kingpin

Historical Examples of kingpin

  • He said he was the kingpin of the tooth-pullers, and I believe he was.

    Mind and Body

    William Walker Atkinson

  • You are to be a kingpin witness in my case against two pickpockets.

    The Arrow of Fire

    Roy J. Snell

  • But there's another day, and the kingpin and I may yet lock horns.

  • On every block he met acquaintances who had even toasted him—with his own wine; toasted him as the kingpin.

    Garrison's Finish

    W. B. M. Ferguson

  • I just went out and sent that whole moving picture outfit reeling, Kingpin and all!

    The Shriek

    Charles Somerville

British Dictionary definitions for kingpin



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