main-stay

mainstay

[meyn-stey]
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:
1475–85; main1 + stay2


2. pillar, bulwark, anchor, prop.
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World English Dictionary
mainstay (ˈmeɪnˌsteɪ)
 
n
1.  nautical the forestay that braces the mainmast
2.  a chief support

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

mainstay
"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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