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[meyn-stey] /ˈmeɪnˌsteɪ/
Nautical. the stay that secures the mainmast forward.
a person or thing that acts as a chief support or part:
Coffee is the mainstay of the country's economy.
Origin of mainstay
1475-85; main1 + stay2
2. pillar, bulwark, anchor, prop. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for mainstay
  • Quantum entanglement is such a mainstay of modern physics that it is worth reflecting on how long it took to emerge.
  • Tourism, a mainstay of the economy, had nearly collapsed.
  • Smokestack industries, previously the economy's mainstay, became a liability overnight.
  • It is a mainstay in every notable economy in the world.
  • Foreign firms own the three ferry lines that serve the cross-Channel port, the town's mainstay.
  • He was already known for his work refining a laser that would become a mainstay of fiber-optic communications.
  • He injected hot steam into the electrified chamber to simulate an erupting volcano, another mainstay of our primordial planet.
  • It works and has been a mainstay of steam locomotive operation to this day.
  • These days, aside from an unmentioned trade in semi-refined cocaine paste, tourism is the economic mainstay of the region.
  • Desktops are still the mainstay for many businesses and basic home users.
British Dictionary definitions for mainstay


(nautical) the forestay that braces the mainmast
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 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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