[ linch-pin ]
/ ˈlɪntʃˌpɪn /
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a variant of linchpin.
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Words nearby lynchpin

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does lynchpin mean?

Lynchpin is an alternate spelling of linchpin—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 the word 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 lynchpin is someone or something that keeps the wheels from falling off of an operation—they keep the whole thing working.

Lynchpin is not related to the verb lynch. It is much less commonly used than linchpin.

Example: Their point guard wasn’t their main scorer, but she was the lynchpin to the team’s success, and they started to lose a lot of games after she was injured.

Where does lynchpin come from?

The first records of the word linchpin come from the 1300s. The spelling variant lynchpin may be based on the fact that the word comes from an alteration of the Middle English word lynspin. This word 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 lynchpin may not be big, but without it, the wheel—and therefore the entire carriage—becomes useless. Similarly, a lynchpin 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 lynchpin in a company isn’t necessarily the boss.)

A lynchpin 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 lynchpin of the economy. A lynchpin 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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How is lynchpin used in real life?

Lynchpin is much less common than linchpin. People often use the terms 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.



Try using lynchpin!

Is lynchpin used correctly in the following sentence?

Having him as the spokesperson is the lynchpin of the ad campaign—without him, it simply won’t work.

How to use lynchpin in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for lynchpin

/ (ˈlɪntʃˌpɪn) /

a variant spelling of linchpin
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