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From Middle English main stai, equivalent to main +‎ stay (rope).



mainstay (plural mainstays)

  1. A chief support.
    Agriculture is the mainstay of this country’s economy.
    • 2000, Jedrzej George Frynas, Oil in Nigeria, →ISBN:
      Oil is the mainstay of Nigeria's economy.
    • 2014, Marc C. Hochberg, ‎Alan J. Silman, ‎& Josef S. Smolen, Rheumatology, →ISBN, page 307:
      Conventional radiography has a major role in, and remains the mainstay of, initial evaluation and follow-up of rheumatologic disease.
  2. Someone or something that can be depended on to make a regular contribution.
    • 2004, Susan McHugh, Dog, →ISBN:
      Like show dogs, dog actors became a mainstay in European and American contexts from the early nineteenth century with the convergence of public sentiment for dogs and popular interest in training them.
    • 2010, Lamar Underwood, 1001 Fishing Tips, →ISBN:
      Crickets are a mainstay of panfishing with live bait—and a mainstay of bait shops—but they come off the hook easily and you'll be plagued by minnows and tiny fish constantly stealing your bait.
    • 2016 May 23, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, “Apocalypse pits the strengths of the X-Men series against the weaknesses”, in The Onion AV Club[1]:
      X-Men: Apocalypse, directed by series mainstay Bryan Singer, gives Magneto, the Holocaust survivor who can control magnetic fields, and Xavier, the paraplegic telepath who tends to come off as really smug, next-to-zero shared screen time.
  3. (nautical) A stabilising rope from the top of the mainmast to the bottom of the foremast.