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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — stem-winder

November 08, 2012

Word of the Day

  • stem-winder
  • audio pronunciation
  • \STEM-wyne-der\


: a stem-winding watch
: one that is first-rate of its kind; especially : a stirring speech

Stuart is a stem-winder as a defense attorney.

"In his 48-minute stem-winder Wednesday, the former president showed everyone why he's a master political communicator." — From an article by Linda Feldmann in The Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2012


The stem-winder is a watch wound by means of a stem, as opposed to the older method of winding with a key. The stem-winder was introduced to the marketplace in the late 19th century, and it wound up being such a hit with consumers that people soon turned to using the mechanism's name for exceptional people or things in general. Before "stem-winder" referred to a kind of watch, it was used in colloquial English (especially in the western part of the United States) as a word for a geared logging locomotive. Another name for such a locomotive is "corkscrew."

From Merriam-Webster Online at



Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.