American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. The principal spring in a mechanical device, especially a watch or clock, that drives the mechanism by uncoiling.
- n. The chief motivating force: the mainspring of a reform movement.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The principal spring of any piece of mechanism, as, in a gun-lock, the spring which operates the hammer; specifically, the coiled spring of a watch or other timepiece.
- n. The impelling cause of any action; the inciting motive.
- n. The principal spring of a clockwork mechanism, that drives it by uncoiling.
- n. figuratively The most important reason for something.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. (Fig.), (Fig.) The principal or most important spring in a piece of mechanism, especially the moving spring of a watch or clock or the spring in a gunlock which impels the hammer. The chief or most powerful motive; the efficient cause of action.
- n. the most important spring in a mechanical device (especially a clock or watch); as it uncoils it drives the mechanism
“When the spiritual stage of her evolution is reached, this occult process must become the whole process; to get through the veil of forces and get at their secret mainspring, which is the Spirit itself, is of cardinal importance.”
“Journalism of which the mainspring is the gaining of pleasure may easily degenerate into something akin to the comic actor's function.”
“The teacher who can break a mainspring first and keep it from getting mended, is often the most esteemed in the community.”
“Our "mainspring" not only has run down, but is broken.”
“The system of which you have been speaking might be called the mainspring of our society.”
“Referring to Orme, Shirley sniffed, “It is a joke to suppose that secondary officers can make amends for the defects of the first; the mainspring must be the mover—the others in many cases can do no more than follow and correct a little its motions.””
“That this dog and White Fang should come together was inevitable, and for a week the anticipated fight was the mainspring of conversation in certain quarters of the town.”
“For instance, say your mainspring event was a fatal car accident.”
“We want to uncover the mainspring for mass murder.”
“If Hethor fails to wind the mainspring before a given date, the world ends.”
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