A lynchpin is a vitally important person or an essential element. You could say that a star player is the lynchpin of the team, or that technology is the lynchpin of the California economy.

Without the lynchpin, a group or project just won't work, won't go as smoothly, or will be otherwise less successful. The lynchpin of many bands is a great lead singer, and the lynchpin of a bountiful vegetable garden is rich, healthy soil. This figurative meaning of lynchpin (which is also spelled linchpin) comes from the literal definition: a pin that keeps a wheel attached to an axle.

Definitions of lynchpin
  1. noun
    a central cohesive source of support and stability
    synonyms: anchor, backbone, keystone, linchpin, mainstay
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    type of:
    something providing immaterial assistance to a person or cause or interest
  2. noun
    pin inserted through an axletree to hold a wheel on
    synonyms: linchpin
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    type of:
    a small slender (often pointed) piece of wood or metal used to support or fasten or attach things
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