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.
Also, lynchpin.

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. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
linchpin or lynchpin (ˈlɪntʃˌpɪn)
1.  a pin placed transversely through an axle to keep a wheel in position
2.  a person or thing regarded as an essential or coordinating element: the linchpin of the company
[C14 lynspin, from Old English lynis]
lynchpin or lynchpin
[C14 lynspin, from Old English lynis]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., from M.E. lins "axletree" (from O.E. lynis, from P.Gmc. *luniso) + pin. The peg that holds a wheel on an axle; now mainly figurative.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
But let's not forget the linchpin accessory for the schoolyard fashionista-the
The linchpin of the process of producing and disseminating scholarship is peer
Almost immediately, there were unmistakable signs that new surveillance tools
  would be a linchpin in the war on terrorism.
But the linchpin of the administration's effort is a broad push to support
  small businesses.
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