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skeleton key

See more synonyms for skeleton key on Thesaurus.com
noun
  1. a key with nearly the whole substance of the bit filed away so that it may open various locks.
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Origin of skeleton key

First recorded in 1800–10
Also called passkey.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for skeleton key

Historical Examples

  • The time had come for him to use the skeleton-key which he had had made.

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander

  • He was a prisoner now, for he had left the skeleton-key in the inside of the outer door.

    Satan Sanderson

    Hallie Erminie Rives

  • That morning he had secured a skeleton-key, and now the weather was propitious for his purpose.

    Satan Sanderson

    Hallie Erminie Rives

  • Let me see if my skeleton-key will open the cellar reserved for the tenant of the ground floor.


British Dictionary definitions for skeleton key

skeleton key

noun
  1. a key with the serrated edge filed down so that it can open numerous locksAlso called: passkey
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Word Origin

C19: so called because it has been reduced to its essential parts
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