steppingstone

[step-ing-stohn]
noun
1.
a stone, or one of a line of stones, in shallow water, a marshy place, or the like, that is stepped on in crossing.
2.
a stone for use in mounting or ascending.
3.
any means or stage of advancement or improvement: She looked on the governorship as a steppingstone to the presidency.

Origin:
1275–1325; Middle English

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Example sentences
The term, in mathematics, refers to a steppingstone that can be used to develop a larger theory.
More than one of the pioneers used his perch as a steppingstone to the other side of the screen.
It was well balanced and even served as the steppingstone for development of theM ark series.
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