prime mover

noun
1.
Mechanics.
a.
the initial agent, as wind or electricity, that puts a machine in motion.
b.
a machine, as a water wheel or steam engine, that receives and modifies energy as supplied by some natural source.
2.
means of towing a cannon, as an animal, truck, or tractor.
3.
Also called unmoved mover. Aristotelianism. that which is the first cause of all movement and does not itself move.
4.
a person or thing that initiates or gives power and cohesion to something, as an idea, endeavor, or organization.

Origin:
1935–40

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
prime mover
 
n
1.  the original or primary force behind an idea, enterprise, etc
2.  a.  the source of power, such as fuel, wind, electricity, etc, for a machine
 b.  the means of extracting power from such a source, such as a steam engine, electric motor, etc
3.  (in the philosophy of Aristotle) that which is the cause of all movement

Prime Mover
 
n
philosophy the Prime Mover God, esp when considered as a first cause

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

prime mover

The initial source of energy directed toward a goal, someone or something that sets others in motion. For example, Jean was the prime mover in getting us more laboratory space, or Patriotism was the prime mover of the revolution. [Late 1600s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
The prime mover is the main power source providing energy to drive the
  compressor.
Renewable power grown in step with added railway prime mover consumption.
When companies pursue joint ventures, one is often the prime mover.
The type of fuel used depends on availability and the type of prime mover
  employed.
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