If you look inside a wristwatch or a clock, the mainspring is the most important spring. It's the main thing that makes the timepiece work.
Similarly, the mainspring of something is its most important, most powerful cause or motive.
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 mainspring or multiple mainsprings.)
How to use it:
Because a spring makes something work by uncoiling and forcing action, call something a mainspring when it provides steady pressure that forces something to happen, especially continuously and little by little.
So, talk about one thing being the mainspring of a second thing. (You can say either "the mainspring of something" or "something's mainspring.") For instance, a shared event, experience, or opinion might be the mainspring of connection or understanding between two people, or you might say a certain problem or event is the mainspring of a negative emotion, like selfishness or anger. A certain desire or event might be the mainspring of an action that follows; the mainspring of a story is the event that sets it in motion; the mainspring of a song is the feeling or event that inspired it; banks might be the mainspring of an economy; a specific person might be the creative or intellectual mainspring of a project and so on.
The thing to keep in mind is that whatever has a mainspring is being compared, loosely, to a clock or watch that keeps on going, driven by whatever that mainspring is. You might take this metaphor further and talk about winding the mainspring (preparing something to cause action) or breaking the mainspring (interrupting or removing the cause of something.)
A theory of achievement motivation holds that one of two things is the mainspring of a student's behaviors: either a desire to truly learn and master skills, or a desire to look smart and be better than the other students in the class.
I'm willing to believe that this pop star leads an interesting life full of friendships and hobbies, but failed romances seem to be the mainspring of all her songs.
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "mainspring" means when you can explain it without saying “central motivator" or "main cause."
Think of an important choice you've made, and fill in the blanks: "The mainspring of my decision to _____ was a desire to _____."
Example: "The mainspring of our decision to name our child Taylor was a desire to honor my grandmother."
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.
We’re starting off with easy questions, then working our way toward some whoppers at the end of the month, all the while focusing on funny, unusual words; surprising word histories; and cool tidbits about the language.
What do these words have in common? Braille, Celsius, diesel, guillotine, ohm, pasteurize, Richter, silhouette, zeppelin.
Answer: They are inventions named after their inventors.
Try this one today. It should still feel pretty easy:
Name as many as you can of the ten words for body parts that have three letters each.
A Point Well Made:
Khalil Gibran: “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”
1. The opposite of MAINSPRING is
2. The mainspring of the store's profits this year has been _____.
A. well-timed holiday promotions
B. paltry compared to last year
C. difficult to calculate precisely
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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