The Meaning of Pivotal: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of pivotal? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word pivotal, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word pivotal mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and other sources such as Collins English Dictionary and American Heritage, the word pivotal is an adjective that is most commonly used figuratively to mean of central importance or critical importance. It can also be used literally to refer to something that relates to or constitutes a pivot. Pivotal is three syllables – piv-ot-al, and the pronunciation of the word pivotal is ˈpi-və-tᵊl .

Many different languages also contain words that mean pivotal. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to the word pivotal. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases that look, sound, and mean the same thing between languages. These are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin, such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations of pivotal is provided by Word Sense.

  •  French: central‎, crucial‎, déterminant‎, essentiel‎
  •  Finnish: keskeinen‎, ratkaiseva‎, käänteentekevä‎
  •  Italian: cruciale‎, fondamentale‎, centrale‎
  •  Spanish: crucial‎, pivotal‎
  •  Dutch: cruciaal‎, doorslaggevend‎
  •  Armenian: առանցքային‎
  •  Portuguese: pivotal‎, crucial‎
  •  Polish: kluczowe‎ (neut.)
  •  German: entscheidend‎, ausschlaggebend‎, Dreh‎, Zapfen‎, Angel‎, zentral‎, Schlüssel‎, Kardinal‎
  •  Russian: основной‎, центральный‎
  •  Swedish: central‎, väsentlig‎, avgörande‎, huvudsaklig‎, nyckel-‎

What is the origin of the word pivotal?

According to Etymonline, the word pivotal (adj.) has been used to describe something that has the nature of a pivot since 1844 in Middle English. From there, it was taken from the word pivot to have the figurative sense with the suffix -al added to form the adjective. The word pivot comes from the Old French pibot from the 12th century, and also from the word penis, which may come from the word pevetsheres which were a type of shears used around 1398. The word pivot has been used as a noun since the 1610s and a verb by the year 1841.

What are synonyms and antonyms of pivotal?

There are a plethora of different words that have the same meaning as pivotal. These are called synonyms, and can be used interchangeably with the word pivotal. Synonyms are useful words to know because they are an easy way to expand your vocabulary, as well as a good tool to avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms for the word pivotal is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  decisive
  •  momentous
  •  salient
  •  serious
  •  principal
  •  overruling
  •  signal
  •  grave
  •  crucial
  •  extensive
  •  central
  •  earnest
  •  valuable 
  •  foremost
  •  paramount
  •  conspicuous
  •  cardinal
  •  substantial
  •  important
  •  of substance
  •  focal
  •  marked
  •  exigent
  •  determining
  •  climactic
  •  vital
  •  essential
  •  meaningful
  •  ponderous
  •  critical
  •  considerable
  •  ruling
  •   overriding
  •  influential
  •  esteemed
  •  big
  •  importunate
  •  material
  •  great
  •  primary
  •  urgent
  •  mattering much
  •  middle
  •  relevant
  •  big-league
  •  large
  •  imperative
  •  far-reaching
  •  necessary
  •  front-page
  •  pressing
  •  significant
  •  standout
  •  chief
  •  of note
  •  heavy
  •  exceptional
  •  weighty
  •  of moment
  •  something

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word pivotal. These are called antonyms, and are another great, easy way to work on expanding your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word pivotal is provided by Thesaurus as well. 

  •  irrelevant
  •  insignificant
  •  unnecessary
  •  worthless
  •  of no account
  •  minute
  •  meaningless
  •  little
  •  of no consequence
  •  trivial
  •  slight
  •  paltry
  •  frivolous
  •  zip
  •  zilch
  •  nugatory
  •  low-ranking
  •  minor
  •  zero
  •  second-rate
  •  inconsiderable
  •  indifferent
  •  shoestring
  •  inconsequential
  •  nonessential
  •  immaterial
  •  unimportant
  •  picayune
  •  casual
  •  frothy
  •  petty
  •  trifling
  •  nothing
  •  beside the point
  •  useless
  •  negligible
  •  null

How can the word pivotal be used in a sentence?

The word pivotal can be used in many different ways in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to remember their definition. You can also create flashcards or quizzes for yourself in order to test your knowledge of the English language and your vocabulary. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are several examples of pivotal to get you started.

The voter-suppression attempts were a pivotal issue during the pivotal election in June and August in the United States. It was supposed to be a pivotal comeback year for one candidate, but the election would go down in American history as doomed from the start.

The business’ track record depended upon the pivotal event – its meeting with people from Google in Hong Kong and Mexico. If this pivotal moment did not go well, the company would suffer.

A successful pandemic response was pivotal for the medical science industry. If they wanted to save the world, they had to scramble to create vaccines for everyone. The scientists played pivotal roles in ending the pandemic.

Her first day at Princeton University was a pivotal time and a pivotal location. She knew she could make a big impact if she focused and made the right connections. There were periodic invasions of intrusive thoughts in her mind, but she remained resilient and focused on her schoolwork and newsletter. 

The director was in post-production on two of her most pivotal movies. If these were a success, it would catapult her into stardom. She was nervous for others to see her work, but she felt confident that people would be able to connect to them. 

There are many different pivotal roles when running a business, but some forget that the most pivotal position is the person who is interacting with the customer. It doesn’t matter how pivotal software works, it matters that the customer feels taken care of by a real human.

Overall, the word pivotal means vitally important or being of crucial importance. It can also describe the nature of a pivot.


  1. pivotal: meaning, translation, synonyms | Word Sense 
  2. PIVOTAL Synonyms: 24 Synonyms & Antonyms for PIVOTAL | Thesaurus 
  3. UNIMPORTANT Synonyms: 49 Synonyms & Antonyms for UNIMPORTANT | Thesaurus 
  4. pivotal | Origin and meaning of pivotal | Online Etymology Dictionary
  5. Pivotal | Definition of Pivotal | Merriam-Webster