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skeleton key

a key with nearly the whole substance of the bit filed away so that it may open various locks.
Also called passkey.
Origin of skeleton key
1800-10 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for skeleton-key
Historical Examples
  • He was a prisoner now, for he had left the skeleton-key in the inside of the outer door.

    Satan Sanderson Hallie Erminie Rives
  • The time had come for him to use the skeleton-key which he had had made.

    The Crevice William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander
  • That morning he had secured a skeleton-key, and now the weather was propitious for his purpose.

    Satan Sanderson Hallie Erminie Rives
  • Let me see if my skeleton-key will open the cellar reserved for the tenant of the ground floor.

British Dictionary definitions for skeleton-key

skeleton key

a key with the serrated edge filed down so that it can open numerous locks Also called passkey
Word Origin
C19: so called because it has been reduced to its essential parts
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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