The definition for "go-to" that I'm interested in is: "Denoting a person or thing that may be relied on or is regularly sought out in a particular situation." (Source: Google's definition) I want a more formal word for this, but I couldn't find synonyms in any of the online dictionaries that had "go-to".

Example sentence: Jet skis are the go-to watercraft for exhilarating beach entertainment.

What would be a more formal substitute for "go-to" in situations like that? "principal" perhaps? But I feel like "go-to" has a different connotation than "principal".

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    One I see quite often (though I won't post as an answer because I'm not 100% sure it has the connotation you're after) is de facto: ​existing in ​fact, ​although ​perhaps not ​intended, ​legal, or ​accepted - "Jet skis are the de facto watercraft for exhilarating beach entertainment." Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 15:34
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    Do you like favored or any of its synonyms?
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 15:41
  • Thanks @JohnClifford, I think de facto does fit really nicely!
    – Esteban
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 15:47
  • I can post as an answer if you like, though there are others that have been posted since your comment that you might prefer. :) Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 15:48
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    "Harmful". (Sorry, just a programmer's joke ;P)
    – hmijail
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 10:59

10 Answers 10


I would say that if some [noun] is your go-to, it is your [noun] of choice:

to be preferred

Jet skis are the watercraft of choice for exhilarating beach entertainment.


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    This is my answer of choice. Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 16:00

preferred - 1. To choose or be in the habit of choosing as more desirable or as having more value


Your sentence becomes: "...Jet skis are the preferred watercraft for exhilarating beach entertainment. ..."


I might use "default" to indicate the normal selection from a list of options.

"Canonical" means most accepted or authoritative but is used more for ideas than for things.

Your jet ski example suggests that you may be thinking of things, so these suggestions may not suit your requirement.

You may be trying too hard; go-to is fairly acceptable. You could also just say why something would be the go-to choice: Jet skis are the ideal choice for....

  • Or, you could simply say that, Jet skis are the ideal watercraft for exhilarating beach entertainment. However, that is an opinion, while the "go-to" usage might be seen as an observation of a fact: I prefer jet skis; versus, Many people prefer jet skis.
    – jpaugh
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 21:23

If you want a grandiloquent term, perhaps quintessential

Representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class

Oxford Dictionaries Online


Sometimes I hear the usage

de facto/de facto standard

SQL Server is the de facto standard server technology in the .NET development field.

A de facto standard is a custom, convention, product, or system that has achieved a dominant position by public acceptance or market forces (such as early entrance to the market).


It differs from the de jure standard, which is something officially endorsed by a central body.

  • I don't doubt you have heard it, but 'de facto' (without 'standard') in your first example just sounds wrong to my ears. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 18:15
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    @SpehroPefhany Yeah, I'm not sure if it's necessarily incorrect or just lazy/shorthand. I've heard de facto and de facto standard. I have edited my post to be more concise. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 18:27

You could consider predominant. Both of Merriam-Webster's definitions could be applicable:

1: having superior strength, influence, or authority : prevailing

2: being most frequent or common


You might consider, self-evident

evident without proof or reasoning


Alternately, how about choice?

adj. worthy of being chosen; excellent.

Random House Kennerman Webster's College Dictionary


Everyone has tried to insert a positive connotation that simply isn't there.

A more neutral (and much simpler) word to use is usual.


Overkill: "sine qua non" -- which is more along the lines of the suggested "quintessential"

The meaning (and connotations), however, go well beyond what the original question seems to want...which is more like "most favored tool in the toolbox".


Perhaps not as formal for fitting as other suggestions but also worth mentioning here: standby, often preceded by "old".

n., 1b: a favorite or reliable choice or resource (MW)

Usage: "When seeking watercraft for exhilarating beach entertainment, jet skis are an old standby."

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