noun, plural latch·keys.

a key for releasing a latch or springlock, especially on an outer door.

Origin of latchkey

First recorded in 1815–25; latch + key1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for latchkey

screw, skeleton, opener, passkey

Examples from the Web for latchkey

Historical Examples of latchkey

  • Lady St. Craye hesitated a moment with her latchkey in her hand.

  • It was only when he got out into the now-emptying street that he remembered that he had not got a latchkey.

    People of Position

    Stanley Portal Hyatt

  • With deep relief she saw her father, latchkey in hand, turning into the Old Square.


    John Galsworthy

  • With longing, yet with dread, she waited for the sound of Stephen's latchkey.


    John Galsworthy

  • A moment later there was a rattle of a latchkey and two people came in.

British Dictionary definitions for latchkey



a key for an outside door or gate, esp one that lifts a latch
  1. a supposed freedom from restrictions
  2. (as modifier)a latchkey existence
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 latchkey

also latch-key, 1825, a key to draw back the latch of a door, from latch (n.) + key (n.1). Latchkey child first recorded 1944, American English, in reference to children who come home from school while both parents are at work.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper