keys to the kingdom

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Originating from the concept of resources that were the means of obtaining control over an actual kingdom, i.e., a realm under the rulership of a king. Compare also King James Bible Matthew 16:19, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven."


keys to the kingdom pl (plural only)

  1. (idiomatic) A resource, usually information or knowledge, the possession of which gives the possessor access to power.
    • 1830, John Donald Carrick, Life of Sir William Wallace of Elderslie, page 112:
      This fortress, from its strong position, was considered as one of the keys to the kingdom, and had belonged to the Earl of March, a disappointed candidate for the crown, who had now attached himself to the banner of England.
    • 2002 April 8, InfoWorld, v. 24, no. 14, page 28:
      The passwords they control are the keys to the kingdom, so what protections should be taken?
    • 2008, Barack Obama (quoting Senator Robert Byrd), The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, page 119:
      Not many people bother to learn them these days. Everything is so rushed, so many demands on a senator's time. But these rules unlock the power of the Senate. They're the keys to the kingdom.