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mainstay

[meyn-stey] /ˈmeɪnˌsteɪ/
noun
1.
Nautical. the stay that secures the mainmast forward.
2.
a person or thing that acts as a chief support or part:
Coffee is the mainstay of the country's economy.
Origin
1475-1485
1475-85; main1 + stay2
Synonyms
2. pillar, bulwark, anchor, prop.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for main-stay

mainstay

/ˈmeɪnˌsteɪ/
noun
1.
(nautical) the forestay that braces the mainmast
2.
a chief support
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 main-stay

mainstay

n.

"chief support," 1787, figurative use of a nautical noun meaning "stay which extends from the main-top to the foot of the foremast" (late 15c.), from main (adj.) + stay (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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