An actual mainstay is the rope or brace that holds up the mainmast on a ship. The mainstay keeps the mast secure, meaning the whole ship can keep sailing smoothly. Look in the lower right corner of this image to see the mainstay labeled:
More generally, a mainstay is somebody or something that is the most important source of support for something. In other words, the larger system relies mainly on whatever the mainstay is.
Part of speech:
(Countable nouns, like “bottle,” “piece,” and “decision,” are words for things that can be broken into exact units. You talk about “a bottle,” “three pieces,” and “many decisions.”
Likewise, talk about one mainstay or multiple mainstays.)
How to use it:
A mainstay is not simply the most important part, but is the most important support or source of support. Something relies on its mainstay.
Say that something (or someone) is the mainstay of, for, in, on, or to something else: tourism is the mainstay of our state's economy, he is his perpetually sick wife's mainstay, this product is a mainstay in the industry, a certain topic is the mainstay of conversation among your friends, a particular philosophy or belief is the mainstay of your life, replicability is a mainstay of the scientific process, etc.
Cheap homemade sandwiches were once a lunchtime mainstay for us, but where we live, bread is costly and molds quickly.
Netflix is removing my daughter's screentime mainstay, Sid the Science Kid. Noooo!
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "mainstay" means when you can explain it without saying "chief support" or "main resource."
Think of an interesting place you've lived in or visited, and fill in the blanks: "(Place)'s economic (or cultural, or both) mainstay is _____."
Example: "One of Nashville's economic and cultural mainstays is the Grand Ole Opry."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
Playing With Words:
Our October game references some material that may be protected by copyright. I appreciate your understanding as I err on the side of caution by not publishing it here!
A Point Well Made:
Artemus Ward: “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so.”
1. The opposite of MAINSTAY is
2. Once a mainstay of her vocabulary, profanities _____
A. have been cast aside in favor of more specific insults and expressions of disappointment.
B. now allow her to constantly assert herself as the big, bad ringleader of her social group.
C. continue to offend others and prevent her from making a professional impression.
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
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