Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Fulcrum


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is fulcrum. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

In technical use, fulcrum refers to the support on which a lever moves when it is used to lift something. In figurative use, fulcrum refers to a person or thing that makes it possible for something to function or develop, or in other words, one who plays an essential role in something.

// Although the lead actor was phenomenal, critics believe that the supporting cast was the real fulcrum of the show.

FULCRUM in Context

“For now, [Super Nintendo World] is entirely focused on Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom. … According to [Shinya] Takahashi, while other properties have been considered … it just made the most sense to start with Mario. ‘When you think of Nintendo you think Mario,’ he says. ‘He’s the fulcrum around which everything revolves.'” — Andrew Webster,, 22 Feb. 2023

Did You Know?

Fulcrum, which means “bedpost” in Latin, comes from the verb fulcire, which means “to prop.” When the word fulcrum was first used in the 17th century, it referred to the point on which a lever or similar device (such as the oar of a boat) is supported. The literal use easily supported figurative use, and it didn’t take long for the word to develop a meaning referring to one deemed essential to the function or development of something. Despite fulcrum‘s multiple senses, the word’s meanings have kept a steady theme. In zoology, fulcrum refers to a part of an animal that serves as a hinge or support, such as the joint supporting a bird’s wing.

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