Simple Definition of bellwether
: someone or something that leads others or shows what will happen in the future
Full Definition of bellwether
: one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends
Examples of bellwether in a sentence
She is a bellwether of fashion.
High-tech bellwethers led the decline in the stock market.
a county that is a bellwether in national elections
Did You Know?
We usually think of sheep more as followers than leaders, but in a flock one sheep must lead the way. Long ago, it was common practice for shepherds to hang a bell around the neck of one sheep in their flock, thereby designating it the lead sheep. This animal was called the bellwether, a word formed by a combination of the Middle English words belle (meaning "bell") and wether (a noun that refers to a male sheep that has been castrated). It eventually followed that bellwether would come to refer to someone who takes initiative or who actively establishes a trend that is taken up by others. This usage first appeared in English in the 13th century.
Origin of bellwether
Middle English, leading sheep of a flock, leader, from belle bell + wether; from the practice of belling the leader of a flock
First Known Use: 13th century
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