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 and Etymology 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
BELLWETHER Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of bellwether for English Language Learners
: someone or something that leads others or shows what will happen in the future
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up bellwether? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).