Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The principal spring in a mechanical device, especially a watch or clock, that drives the mechanism by uncoiling.
  • noun The chief motivating force.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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.
  • noun The impelling cause of any action; the inciting motive.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The principal spring of a clockwork mechanism, that drives it by uncoiling.
  • noun figuratively The most important reason for something.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun the most important spring in a mechanical device (especially a clock or watch); as it uncoils it drives the mechanism

Etymologies

Sorry, no etymologies found.

Examples

  • 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.

    This is the first truth that our creative zeal and aspiration have to learn

  • 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.

    Archive 2007-10-01

  • Journalism of which the mainspring is the gaining of pleasure may easily degenerate into something akin to the comic actor's function.

    The Adventure of Living

  • The teacher who can break a mainspring first and keep it from getting mended, is often the most esteemed in the community.

    The Lost Art of Reading

  • Journalism of which the mainspring is the gaining of pleasure may easily degenerate into something akin to the comic actor's function.

    The Adventure of Living : a Subjective Autobiography

  • Our "mainspring" not only has run down, but is broken.

    Diary of the Besieged Resident in Paris

  • "The system of which you have been speaking might be called the mainspring of our society.

    Daybreak; a Romance of an Old World

  • 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.”

    George Washington’s First War

  • 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.”

    George Washington’s First War

  • 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.

    Reign of Hate

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