Keys: A to Z Challenge 2017 Post #11


Welcome to my A to Z Blogging Challenge Posts.

This month I’ve challenged myself to not only do 26 blog posts in 30 days based on One Word Writing Prompts, but also to try to link them together into some kind of cohesive whole.  I’d love to hear how you think I’m doing.  If you want to start the story from the beginning, check out the Angel post from April 1.

Today’s One Word Writing Prompt:

The definitions are from the Oxford English Dictionary via their on-line access (which I have through my University employer).  Feel free to skip down to the story segment if you don’t share my fascination with words, definitions, and shades of meaning.


key, n.1 and adj.
An instrument designed to be inserted into a lock and turned.
1.  a. A (usually metal) instrument shaped to fit the wards or pins of a particular lock, so that it may be inserted into the keyhole and turned, in order to lock or unlock a door, chest, box, etc. Freq. with offorto.
b. A representation of a key, esp. as a heraldic device. Cf. cross keys n.
2. A similar instrument for operating a switch or other control which is in the form of a lock with a keyhole, esp. an ignition switch in a motor vehicle (cf. ignition key n. at ignition n. Compounds 2, car key n. at car n.1 Compounds 1b).
Figurative and allusive uses.
3.  a.  [With allusion to Matthew 16:19 (see quot. c1384).] R.C. Church. The spiritual authority believed to have been transmitted from Christ to St Peter, and so to the Pope considered as his successor, as symbolized by the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Also in a wider sense: the power or authority of the Christian Church or its priests. Usu. in pl. Cf. church key n. 1b, power of the keys n. at power n.1Phrases 9.
b. gen. A key used to symbolize power, control, or authority, esp. over a particular place; a key as a symbol of office; a position of power or authority.
c. A key (real or notional) used to symbolize freedom of access to a particular place and presented ceremonially as a formal honour or mark of respect by a representative of a city, organization, etc. Freq. in keys to the city. Cf. freedom n. 14b.
4.  a. Something likened metaphorically to a key in having the power to open or close something else; a thing which provides access or opportunity; a means to a desired objective.
b. A place or position with strategic advantages which give control over or access to a territory, sea, etc. Also fig.
c. golden (also silver) key and variants: money as a means of acquiring something that one needs or desires; spec. a bribe or inducement.
5.  a. A means of understanding something unknown, mysterious, or obscure; a solution or explanation.
b. A word or other device for encrypting or decrypting a code or cipher; something which enables the interpretation of an allegorical, cryptic, or otherwise obscure work; a means of translating a foreign text.
c. A textbook or section of a textbook containing solutions to mathematical problems, translation exercises, etc.
d. A list or diagram explaining the figures in a photograph or picture, the features of a map, or the symbols, abbreviations, colours, etc., used in a book, chart, or other work. Cf. legend n. 8c.
e. Bot. and Zool. A set of descriptive statements designed so that selecting those which apply to an unknown organism allows its identification or its attribution to a particular taxon.
6. A person who or thing which is central to a system, group, or organization; an essential or key element; a mainstay. Cf. sense A. 10b and key adj.
7. Chess. The first move in the solution of a problem (problem n. 5); = key-move n. at Compounds 3.
8. Advertising (orig. U.S.). A method used to distinguish an advertisement so as to identify the publication generating any particular response. Cf. key v. 6.
9. Computing. Short for key field n. at Compounds 3. More fully primary key.
III. Senses denoting objects which resemble a key in form or function, esp. in technical contexts.
10.  a. Archit. A central stone or boss at the summit of a vault, or at the intersection of a number of ribs.
b. Archit. A central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together; the keystone of an arch.
c. Engin. A final segment inserted at the top of a section of tunnel lining, which holds the other segments tightly in place.
†11. A tiller, a rudder (fig. in quots.). Obs.
12.  a. Mech. A piece of wood or metal which is inserted between other pieces to hold them or tighten them; a pin, bolt, or wedge inserted into a hole, or between parts, so as to lock parts together; spec. one for connecting a shaft to a rotating part of a machine. Cf. cotter n.1
b. Joinery. A piece of wood set across the grain into a recess in the back of a board or set of boards, or flush against the back, in order to prevent warping and bending. Now rare.
c. A piece inserted into a joint in order to make it more rigid; spec. (in some types of mortise and tenon joint) a piece of wood driven through a hole in a protruding tenon and fitted flush to the surface of the part bearing the mortise.
†d. In quarrying and stonework: a wedge of iron driven between two feathers (feather n. 15b) in order to split a stone. Obs.
e. Bookbinding. A U- or H-shaped or slotted piece used to secure the bands of a book in a sewing press or sewing frame.
13. A dry fruit of certain kinds of tree, such as the ash and sycamore, having a thin membranous wing and usually growing in bunches. Cf. samara n.
14. An instrument shaped to fit or grasp a peg, screw, etc., so that it may be turned.
a. Music. An instrument for turning the tuning pegs of a stringed instrument.
b. An instrument for winding a clock, watch, or other clockwork device. Also in figurative contexts.
c. gen. An instrument which grips or fits the head of a screw, bolt, nut, etc., so that it may be turned; an instrument or component which opens or closes a valve.
d. Dentistry. An instrument for extracting teeth, consisting of a shaft with a transverse handle at one end and a pivoted claw, beak, or hook at right angles to it at the other. Cf. key instrument n. at Compounds 3. Now hist.
15. The part of a first coat of plaster on a wall which passes between the laths and secures the rest; (hence) the hold which plaster has on a surface; the roughness of a surface which enables plaster or some other material to adhere to it.
16. Basketball. The area bounded by the (originally narrow) free-throw lane and free-throw circle together, formerly resembling a key or keyhole in shape; = keyholen.   Also: the free-throw lane alone (used esp. with reference to a rule prohibiting players from occupying this space for more than three seconds at a time).
Senses relating to pitch or tone.
†a. A note, a tone; esp. the first or lowest note or tone of a scale or sequence of notes, the keynote. Obs.
b. A system of notes comprising a scale, regarded as forming the tonal basis of a piece or passage of music.
c. The sum of melodic and harmonic relations existing between the tones of such a system; tonality.
18. fig.
a. The tone or tenor of a piece of writing, situation, etc.; the intensity or force of a feeling or action. Cf. >low key adj. 2.
b. The pitch or tone of a person’s voice.
c. Art. The prevailing range of tones in a painting; the relative intensity of a particular colour scheme.
Senses relating to a lever or button.
a. On an organ, piano, or similar instrument: each of the levers pressed by the fingers or (on an organ) the feet in order to produce a note; cf. keyboard n. 1a. Also: each of the bars on a xylophone or similar instrument.
b. On some wind instruments, as the flute, clarinet, trumpet, concertina, etc.: each of the small levers or buttons pressed by the fingers in order to vary the pitch.
c. Each of the resonant metal strips in a musical box which are plucked in order to produce a tune.
d. In pl. and usu. without article. Keyboard instruments as a class; the music or sounds produced by these. Cf. keyboard n. 1b.
20. On a telegraph, typewriter, computer, or other device: a lever or button pressed in order to transmit, produce, or enter an item of data, typically a particular letter or number; each of the buttons on a keyboard or keypad.
Of paramount or crucial importance; dominant, chief, essential.
key, n.2
A low-lying island or reef, esp. in the Caribbean or off the south coast of Florida.
key, n.3
U.S. slang.
A kilogram of an illegal drug.
key, v.
a. To lock with a key (chiefly regional in later use). Now more usually: to unlock with a key; to open by unlocking.
b. To lock up; to place under lock and key. Chiefly fig. Now rare (Sc. in later use).
2. trans.
a. To fasten by means of a pin, wedge, bolt, etc.
b. To cause (plaster) to adhere to laths. In later use also more generally: to cause (a substance) to adhere to a surface. Cf. key n.1 15.
c. To prepare (a surface) to make it receptive to the application of a coating.
3. trans.
a. To alter the pitch of (the strings of a musical instrument) by means of a key. Cf. key n.1 14a. rare.
†b. To fix (a string) on to the pegs or keys of a musical instrument. Obs. rare.
4. trans. fig. To affect (a person) emotionally; to give a particular tone or intensity to (feelings or thoughts). In later use usu.: to put (a person) into a state of excitement, anxiety, or tension, esp. in expectation of, or in preparation for, a particular event or course of action. Cf. to key up at Phrasal verbs 1.
5. trans. To insert the keystone in (an arch).
6. trans. Advertising (orig. U.S.). To distinguish (an advertisement in a periodical), typically by varying the form of the address given for customer responses, so as to identify the publication generating any particular response.
7. ChieflyBot.
a. trans. To identify (a plant or animal) using a key (key n.15e). Also: to devise a key for the identification of (a plant or animal). Usu. with out.
b. intr. Of a plant or animal: to be identified or assigned to a particular taxon by the use of a key. Usu. with out.
8. trans.
a. Electronics. To switch (an electronic device) from one state to another, typically on or off, esp. (in early use) by means of a key or relay in telegraphic transmission. Also: to provide (electronic equipment) with a means for doing this.
b. colloq. (orig. U.S.). To switch on (a radio transmitter or microphone); to set to transmit.
9. trans. U.S. Sport colloq. Of a player, action, quality, etc.: to be a dominant or key element in (a team, game, etc.); to be crucial to (a victory, etc.). Also intr. Also in extended use.
10. trans. Computing. To enter or produce (text or other data) using a keyboard; to type. Cf. to key in 3 at Phrasal verbs 1.
11. trans. To vandalize (a vehicle) by scraping the paint with a key.

Today’s Story Segment:


“If it only looks like jewelry, may I ask what it is?” Rosario asked.

“It is my key,” Uriel replied.  He didn’t think it would hurt anything for Rosario to know that.  He was here to help Rosario, and the man had been concerned about his wellbeing even before that.

“Key to what?”

“Home,” Uriel replied.  Without his key, he could not return home.  To his knowledge there was only one angel who had ever been without their key before, and it was a very old story Uriel was not sure he believed.  In the story, the angel had given her key to a human out of love, and the human had been allowed entry into the home of their creator because of it, but the angel had been doomed to walk the earth for all eternity.  Uriel thought it was a cautionary tale for them, so that they would never lose their keys.

“So without it you can’t return home?” Rosario asked.

“That is correct.”

“I will keep that in mind,” Rosario said softly.  “And if by my action I can help you keep it, I will.”

“Do not endanger yourself,” Uriel cautioned.

“I will do my best,” Rosario said.

“It would defeat the purpose of my being here if you endangered yourself in a misguided attempt to protect me.  I am not fragile like a human, and you must remember that.”

“I will do my best,” Rosario repeated.  “I say this because I do not make promises I cannot keep,” he went on quickly.  “It is in my nature to protect those around me.  Even when I was human I put the safety of my companions above my own.  I cannot promise that I will not have this tendency around you even if you have been sent to aid me in an hour of need.”

“I suppose I can accept that,” Uriel said.  He didn’t like it, but it was good to know that the man he was charged with protecting had a habit of putting himself in danger for others.  “However, I will do everything in my power to protect you while I am here.  I cannot allow you to come to harm if it can be prevented.”

“Could it kill you?” Rosario asked.  His voice was soft, and Uriel sensed some disquiet in the other man.

“It could destroy my corporeal form,” Uriel explained.  “I cannot be killed.  I will always return home if my corporeal form is no more.  I would simply be sent down again with a new form, or one of my fellows would be sent in my place.  And my corporeal form is less fragile than a human body.  If I am not worried about revealing what I am, I am able to heal it the way Michael healed it.”

“I suppose that will have to do,” Rosario said with a sigh.  “Now, the bathroom.”


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