Definition of touchstone in US English:



  • 1A piece of fine-grained dark schist or jasper formerly used for testing alloys of gold by observing the color of the mark which they made on it.

    • ‘‘To touch’ in reference to fine metals such as gold refers to the touchstone used to test the purity of the metal.’
    • ‘The same example can be cited: in spite of producing unlimited quantities of gold, the touchstone remains the same.’
    • ‘Small black stones were used as touchstones to test the colour, and hence purity, of gold.’
    1. 1.1 A standard or criterion by which something is judged or recognized.
      ‘they tend to regard grammar as the touchstone of all language performance’
      • ‘Such reference has been the touchstone for an assessment of trade unions over the last two decades.’
      • ‘Considerations on the French Revolution would become a touchstone for the liberals under the Bourbons.’
      • ‘We had no idea the film would become the touchstone for special effects films that it is recognized to be today.’
      • ‘We are, after all, introduced to him in the first stanza through his tastes, the touchstones he cannot lay aside and by which he judges all else.’
      • ‘Ridley's treatment of the role of inheritance in the determination of intelligence and, more generally, of personality, will be for many readers the touchstone by which his book is judged.’
      • ‘An article in a foreign journal becomes a touchstone and then a norm, unless it is torn asunder by some path-breaking discovery.’
      • ‘Smith endorsed capitalism as a means to his ultimate value - control of arbitrary rule, a premise that has remained a touchstone of liberalism.’
      • ‘In a sense, an extensive vocabulary appears to have mistakenly become a touchstone by which one's English proficiency is judged and assessed.’
      • ‘What, in short, is the touchstone by which to recognise a special class of people from members of the general public?’
      • ‘It is a touchstone against which I measure my own political views.’
      • ‘By the Second World War the toleration of COs had begun to be recognized as a touchstone of mature liberalism.’
      • ‘That was his political touchstone, his point of reference, the rock upon which he built everything else.’
      • ‘His reference to the Cold War as his touchstone gives him away.’
      • ‘This attitude comes mostly from the idea that American middle-class values are the touchstone from which all else should be judged.’
      • ‘There are Australianisms of language and tone, Australian touchstones of reference, that should be consciously preserved.’
      • ‘I would have thought ID cards are a pretty fundamental issue if not a touchstone of liberal credentials.’
      • ‘We see the standard touchstones - the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock - but we also see the streets, Jerusalem as a town, a city where Jews and Arabs both live.’
      • ‘Our writings serve as the academy's benchmarks, the ethical touchstones for the noblest of professions.’
      • ‘But these terms, profoundly limiting as they are, are actually touchstones that disputants in the periodical debate would recognize.’
      • ‘Nor has he challenged the appellant's case that the requirements of the Convention provide a touchstone for judging the rationality of his decision and the policy pursuant to which it was reached.’
      criterion, standard, yardstick, benchmark, barometer, litmus test, indicator, indication
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