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or lynchpin

[linch-pin] /ˈlɪntʃˌpɪn/
a pin inserted through the end of an axletree to keep the wheel on.
something that holds the various elements of a complicated structure together:
The monarchy was the linchpin of the nation's traditions and society.
Origin of linchpin
1350-1400; unexplained alteration of Middle English lynspin, equivalent to lyns, Old English lynis axle-pin (cognate with German Lünse) + pin pin Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for linchpin
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The government had sent him in pursuit of a golden chariot, and he found more than the linchpin.

  • When the linchpin comes out on his side, there'll be a jerk, I tell you!

    The Professor at the Breakfast Table Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.)
  • If an axle had broken or a linchpin loosened the race would have been lost.

    Blazing The Way Emily Inez Denny
  • I will try to be brave, ma'am; but I really did try to put the linchpin back.

    Leslie Ross: Charles Bruce
  • A linchpin had fallen out, and permitted one of the wheels to slide off.

    Twice-Told Tales Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • This thin wedge end of the drawbolt is placed under the end of the linchpin.

    Farm Mechanics Herbert A. Shearer
  • Had he withdrawn some linchpin of ordinary conduct from the wheel on which the whole world revolves?

    The Tower of Oblivion Oliver Onions
British Dictionary definitions for linchpin


a pin placed transversely through an axle to keep a wheel in position
a person or thing regarded as an essential or coordinating element: the linchpin of the company
Word Origin
C14 lynspin, from Old English lynis
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
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Word Origin and History for linchpin

also linch-pin, late 14c., earlier linspin, from Middle English lins "axletree" (see linch) + pin (n.). The peg that holds a wheel on an axle; now mainly figurative.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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