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Origin of linchpin
Words nearby linchpin
What does linchpin mean?
A linchpin is the person or thing that serves as the essential element in a complicated or delicate system or structure—the one that holds everything together.
This sense of linchpin is based on its original, literal meaning: an actual pin used to attach a wheel to the axle of a carriage or wagon to keep the wheel from falling off. It’s a good metaphor: a linchpin is someone or something that keeps the wheels from falling off of an operation—they keep the whole thing working. It can also be spelled lynchpin.
Example: Their point guard wasn’t their main scorer, but she was the linchpin to the team’s success, and they started to lose a lot of games after she was injured.
Where does linchpin come from?
The first records of linchpin come from the 1300s. It’s an alteration of the Middle English word lynspin, which came from a combination of the Old English lynis (the name for an axle-pin) and the word pin (which accurately describes both the shape and function of the object). Its metaphorical use wasn’t recorded until much later.
A literal linchpin may not be big, but without it, the wheel—and therefore the entire carriage—becomes useless. Similarly, a linchpin of a company or other organization is someone whose work is crucial to the work of everyone else. If they were to leave or quit, everything would fall apart. (The word kingpin is used in a similar way to refer to the most crucial or important part of something, or the chief of an organization, but a linchpin in a company isn’t necessarily the boss.)
A linchpin isn’t always a person. It can be a group, institution, or any fundamental element of something. For example, the middle class is often called the linchpin of the economy. A linchpin in this sense is a lot like that one Jenga block that keeps the whole tower standing—pull it out and everything comes tumbling down.
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What are some other forms related to linchpin?
- lynchpin (alternate spelling)
What are some synonyms for linchpin?
What are some words that share a root or word element with linchpin?
What are some words that often get used in discussing linchpin?
How is linchpin used in real life?
People often used the word linchpin in observations about what they consider to be the most important element of an organization or structure, especially when it has collapsed or failed after that element was removed or weakened in some way.
In the Yazoo Basin, a section of the delta where farming is the linchpin of the economy, people are still struggling to cope with a flood that seems forgotten by nearly everyone outside the disaster zone. https://t.co/SpQHElh7sF
— NYT Business (@nytimesbusiness) July 31, 2019
— Hockey India League (@HockeyIndiaLeag) February 14, 2015
No short cuts to healthy living…discipline is the linchpin to success.
— monique hall (@CorporateDem) June 25, 2009
Try using linchpin!
Is linchpin used correctly in the following sentence?
Having him as the spokesperson is the linchpin of the ad campaign—without him, it simply won’t work.
Example sentences from the Web for linchpin
At the moment, Yisrael Beiteinu is the linchpin of the coming rightist government.
Bolshevism was the linchpin that held all the other facets of conspiracy together.Soviet Communism’s Collapse Left America’s Far Right Without a Real Foe|Lee Siegel|April 12, 2012|DAILY BEAST
It was one courier in particular that proved the linchpin in Sunday night's operation that killed the al Qaeda leader.Osama bin Laden's Courier: The Man Who Led the U.S. to bin Laden|Josh Dzieza|May 3, 2011|DAILY BEAST
The drawbolt on a linchpin wagon usually has a head made in the form of the jaws of a wrench.Farm Mechanics|Herbert A. Shearer
That I driv yer honour the last three miles without a linchpin!Coaching, with Anecdotes of the Road|William Pitt Lennox
If an axle had broken or a linchpin loosened the race would have been lost.Blazing The Way|Emily Inez Denny
Linchpin, linsh′pin, n. a pin used to keep the wheel of a carriage on the axle-tree.
But suppose anything should break, or a linchpin should give way and let a wheel loose?Coaching Days & Ways|E. D. (Edward William Dirom) Cuming