mainspring (plural mainsprings)

  1. The principal spring of a clockwork mechanism, which drives it by uncoiling.
    • 1922, Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
      He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away.
  2. (figuratively) The most important reason for something (Cf. spring "origin of something" (literary) (often in the plural) the springs of her ambition.
    My daughter is the mainspring of my life.
  • French: ressort moteur
  • Spanish: resorte motor

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