cinch / lead pipe cinch

A cinch is an easy task or a gamble certain to pay off. A lead-pipe cinch is even more certain. These terms are ingrained in our vocabulary and we probably don’t think much about them. But if we do, they seem strange. How did a cinch, which is literally a saddle-belt, come to mean a certainty? And what the heck does lead-pipe have to do with it?

The first is easy enough. The literal meaning is North American in origin, coming from the Mexican Spanish cincha, meaning belt. It appears in English as early as 1866 in John K. Lord’s The Naturalist in Vancouver Island and British Columbia:

One girth only is used, styled a “synch,” made of horsehair.

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