Origin of the word
The word fulcrum is Latin for ‘bedpost’ and comes from the verb ‘fulcire’, meaning ‘to prop’ or ‘to prop up’. The word first appeared in the English language sometime in the mid 17th century, when it was used to refer to a point supporting a lever or similar tool, like a boat oar.
Fulcrum is a noun that typically refers to the supporting point of a lever. In zoology, it is also sometimes used to describe the part of an animal that acts as a support or hinge — a joint or spine, for example. Over time, fulcrum has also taken on a figurative meaning and is sometimes used to describe a person or thing that is the centre of activity.
The most common usage of the word is in physics, where a fulcrum works with a lever to generate a superior force on an object. There are many kinds of fulcrum and lever combinations: a pair of scissors, a garlic press and tweezers are all examples of simple lever tools that work because of a fulcrum. These tools all have a fixed pivot point, which helps amplify the force applied by the hands so that it becomes much greater.
Archimedes, the famous Greek mathematician, scientist and engineer, is said to have boasted once: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
A talented performer who is the central member of an ensemble may also be referred to as a fulcrum. In this sense, the team’s success — whether in sports, business or the arts — depends largely on its best player or performer. When the superstar is doing their job well, the team is generally triumphant; if not, the group may be more likely to fail.
1. the point on which an object balances or turns
2. the person or thing that everything else depends on