1

scapegoat

play
noun scape·goat \ˈskāp-ˌgōt\

Definition of scapegoat

  1. 1 :  a goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur

  2. 2a :  one that bears the blame for othersb :  one that is the object of irrational hostility

Examples of scapegoat in a Sentence

  1. The CEO was made the scapegoat for the company's failures.

  2. companies often use the economy as a scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility for dropping sales

Recent Examples of scapegoat from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'scapegoat'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

The History of scapegoat

Scapegoat has a fascinating history. Today the word is used to refer to one who is wrongly blamed for something, but it originated with an actual goat.

In the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, God ordained a particular day during which the entire nation of Israel would set aside work, and during which the priests would atone for the sin of the whole nation. Among the rituals prescribed was the scapegoat:

And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. —Leviticus 16:8-10, KJV

The scapegoat carried the sin of the people away with it, thereby cleansing Israel for another year.

The English scapegoat is a compound of the archaic verb scape, which means "escape," and goat, and is modeled on a misreading of the Hebrew ʽazāzēl (which is probably the name of a demon) as ʽēz 'ōzēl , "the goat that departs." More modern translations render scapegoat in this text as Azazel, but the misreading endured and has entered the lexicon.

Origin and Etymology of scapegoat

1scape; intended as translation of Hebrew ʽazāzēl (probably name of a demon), as if ʽēz 'ōzēl goat that departs—Leviticus 16:8 (King James Version)


2

scapegoat

verb scape·goat

Definition of scapegoat

  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to make a scapegoat of

scapegoatism

play \-ˌgō-ˌti-zəm\ noun

First Known Use of scapegoat

1943


SCAPEGOAT Defined for English Language Learners

scapegoat

play
noun

Definition of scapegoat for English Language Learners

  • : a person who is unfairly blamed for something that others have done



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