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  1. Nautical. the stay that secures the mainmast forward.
  2. a person or thing that acts as a chief support or part: Coffee is the mainstay of the country's economy.
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Origin of mainstay

First recorded in 1475–85; main1 + stay2


See more synonyms for mainstay on Thesaurus.com
2. pillar, bulwark, anchor, prop.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for mainstay


  1. nautical the forestay that braces the mainmast
  2. a chief support
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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 mainstay


"chief support," 1787, figurative use of a nautical noun meaning "stay which extends from the main-top to the foot of the foremast" (late 15c.), from main (adj.) + stay (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper