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shibboleth

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noun shib·bo·leth \ˈshi-bə-ləth also -ˌleth\

Simple Definition of shibboleth

  • : an old idea, opinion, or saying that is commonly believed and repeated but that may be seen as old-fashioned or untrue

  • : a word or way of speaking or behaving which shows that a person belongs to a particular group

Full Definition of shibboleth

  1. 1a :  a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning <the old shibboleths come rolling off their lips — Joseph Epstein>b :  a widely held belief <today this book publishing shibboleth is a myth — L. A. Wood>c :  truism, platitude <some truth in the shibboleth that crime does not pay — Lee Rogow>

  2. 2a :  a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group <accent was…a shibboleth of social class — Vivian Ducat>b :  a custom or usage regarded as distinguishing one group from others <for most of the well-to-do in the town, dinner was a shibboleth, its hour dividing mankind — Osbert Sitwell>

Examples of shibboleth

  1. She repeated the old shibboleth that time heals all wounds.

  2. <we knew that their claim of giving the best deal in town was just a shibboleth>



Origin of shibboleth

Hebrew shibbōleth stream; from the use of this word in Judg 12:6 as a test to distinguish Gileadites from Ephraimites


First Known Use: 1638


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