litmus test

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From litmus +‎ test.


litmus test (plural litmus tests)

  1. (chemistry) A simple test for the acidity or alkalinity of a substance, using litmus paper.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) Any test which produces a decisive result by measuring a single indicator.
    • 1940 October 2, Allison Danzig, “Leading Elevens Face Stern Threats in Saturday's Games”, in New York Times, page 27:
      Temple, under its new coach, Ray Morrison, formerly of Vanderbilt, will be put to the blue litmus test Friday night when it takes on Georgetown.
    • 1998 February 16, “Baby-Boomer Bonding”, in Newsweek:
      For good reasons or bad, early membership of the currency union has become the litmus test of being a "good European."
    • 2004 November 15, Matthew Cooper, “Candidates In the Wings”, in Time[1], archived from the original on 2013-02-20:
      He opposes a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage—a litmus test for many social conservatives
    • 2018 March 1, Steven Kurutz, quoting Lisa Schwarzbaum, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like ‘Manhattan’?”, in The New York Times[2], ISSN 0362-4331:
      For years, quoting lines from “Manhattan” or another film by Mr. Allen on a date could be a romantic litmus test, a way to find out if a potential partner also loved E. E. Cummings, Paris, 1930s jazz and the sophisticated, cultured world the films often came to represent.
  3. (Should we delete(+) this sense?) (figuratively, by extension, chiefly US, politics) A question asked of a potential candidate for high office, the answer to which determines whether the nominating official would proceed with the appointment or nomination.



  • litmus test at OneLook Dictionary Search.
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987–1996.