spark plug

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spark plug (plural spark plugs)

Spark plug render
  1. The part of an internal combustion engine which forms a high-voltage electric spark which ignites the fuel-air mixture to begin the power stroke.
    • 1919 January 1, Practical hints on running a gas engine, United States Department of Agriculture:
      With all engines using spark plugs it is comparatively easy to ascertain whether the ignition system is working properly.
  2. (figuratively) Someone who is a driving force in new endeavours.
    Synonyms: straw that stirs the drink, catalyst, instigator, mover and shaker, stimulus
    • 2003, Growing for Market: News and Ideas for Market Gardeners:
      Steve Pincus, a Madison-area farmer who sells produce to L'Etoile, says admiringly of Odessa: "She's a spark plug. She's out there speaking out about sustainable agriculture and local food."
    • 2009 May 30, Al Baker, “Investigators Reviewing a Timeline of Seconds That Led to a Police Shooting”, in New York Times[1]:
      Mr. Santiago used a sparkplug to smash the driver’s side window.
  3. (military) A rod (for cylindrical secondaries) or sphere (for spherical secondaries) of fissile material at the center of the secondary of a multistage thermonuclear weapon, which undergoes nuclear fission when compressed to supercriticality by the imploding secondary, helping to raise the secondary to the pressures and temperatures necessary to ignite nuclear fusion in the secondary's fusion fuel.

Derived terms[edit]