• WordNet 3.6
    • n mainspring the most important spring in a mechanical device (especially a clock or watch); as it uncoils it drives the mechanism
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • n mainspring 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.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n mainspring 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 mainspring The impelling cause of any action; the inciting motive.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Mainspring the spring which gives motion to any piece of machinery, esp. that of a watch or a clock
    • ***


  • Clarence Day
    Clarence Day
    “Creatures whose mainspring is curiosity enjoy the accumulating of facts far more than the pausing at times to reflect on those facts.”
  • Source Unknown
    Source Unknown
    “His life was a sort of dream, as are most lives with the mainspring left out.”


Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
O. Fr. maine or magne, great—L. magnus, great.


In literature:

It was that strong, living soul which was the mainspring of his moral existence.
"The One-Way Trail" by Ridgwell Cullum
Shakespeare saw in Love the mainspring of life.
"Flowers of Freethought" by George W. Foote
For he knew that love affair was the mainspring of his life.
"In the Heart of a Fool" by William Allen White
Great Britain was the mainspring of the coalition.
"The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte" by William Milligan Sloane
It is the mainspring of national progress.
"German Problems and Personalities" by Charles Sarolea
The Prompter never saw a watch with two mainsprings, much less with two hundred.
"Noah Webster" by Horace E. Scudder
Its mainspring is an honorable clan loyalty.
"Our Southern Highlanders" by Horace Kephart
Fear, and not hope, is the mainspring of his devotions.
"The Daltons, Volume II (of II) Or,Three Roads In Life" by Charles James Lever
It may have broken its mainspring before we're in the Sixth, and then we shouldn't want it.
"Loyal to the School" by Angela Brazil
Now, however, I see that the mainspring of your actions was measureless, unlimited, merciless ambition!
"A Struggle for Rome, v. 3" by Felix Dahn
Woman's love is the mainspring of action in poetry.
"Women of the Teutonic Nations" by Hermann Schoenfeld
Have they run out of petrol, or broke the mainspring, or what?
"The Great Keinplatz Experiment and Other Tales of Twilight and the Unseen" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
It's enough to break your mainspring.
"Mopsa the Fairy" by Jean Ingelow
The mainspring of Mr. Mueller's doctrine is his theory about 'apprehending the infinite.
"Custom and Myth" by Andrew Lang
Selfishness is a mainspring of human action.
"The Library and Society" by Various
Such republicanism had been the very mainspring of life at the bijou.
"Ayala's Angel" by Anthony Trollope
I lack the mainspring of the parson's life.
"Sinister Street, vol. 2" by Compton Mackenzie
You've heard of my Mainspring bicycle, of course?
"Witching Hill" by E. W. Hornung
His was a narrow but a strong nature, and the desire of her had become the mainspring of his life.
"To Win the Love He Sought" by E. Phillips Oppenheim
The former hay been the mainspring of the movement, the latter passively affected.
"History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, Volume II (of 2)" by John William Draper

In poetry:

What scientist can ever tell
The mainspring of all action,
If all his reasons fail so prove
Molecular attraction?
"Fragments" by Jared Barhite
Hope is the mainspring on which moves desire, And these do the less wheels, fear, joy, inspire;
The balance is thought, evermore
And striking,
And ne'er giving o'er.
"The Lover's Clock" by John Suckling

In news:

Mainspring Schools is an Austin treasure serving low-income children since 1941.
Mainspring provides pre-school and childcare to the working poor and those making the tough transition from welfare to work.
Bain, Mainspring Partnership to Launch eStrategy.
Using a clock mainspring on a photograph the artist creates a visual interpretation of spring.
The consolidation that the market has been waiting for in the Internet consulting space is picking up momentum, as evidenced by the recent acquisitions of Mainspring by IBM and Proxicom by Dimension Data.
WASHINGTON--Plain-old telephone service--the mainspring of traditional burg and fire alarm signal transmission--could be coming to a mandatory end.