skeleton key


noun

a key with nearly the whole substance of the bit filed away so that it may open various locks.

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for skeleton key

  • 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

a key with the serrated edge filed down so that it can open numerous locksAlso called: passkey

Word Origin for skeleton key

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