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linchpin

[linch-pin] /ˈlɪntʃˌpɪn/
noun
1.
a pin inserted through the end of an axletree to keep the wheel on.
2.
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.
Origin
1350-1400
1350-1400; unexplained alteration of Middle English lynspin, equivalent to lyns, Old English lynis axle-pin (cognate with German Lünse) + pin pin
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for linchpins

linchpin

/ˈlɪntʃˌpɪn/
noun
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
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 linchpins

linchpin

n.

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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