Definition of scapegoat
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
2a : one that bears the blame for othersb : one that is the object of irrational hostility
Examples of scapegoat in a sentence
The CEO was made the scapegoat for the company's failures.
<companies often use the economy as a scapegoat to avoid taking responsibility for dropping sales>
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 (Authorized Version)
First Known Use: 1530
Definition of scapegoat
: to make a scapegoat of
scapegoatismplay \-ˌgō-ˌti-zəm\ noun
First Known Use of scapegoat
SCAPEGOAT Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of scapegoat for English Language Learners
: a person who is unfairly blamed for something that others have done
Learn More about scapegoat
See words that rhyme with scapegoat Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for scapegoat Spanish Central: Translation of scapegoat Nglish: Translation of scapegoat for Spanish speakers Britannica English: Translation of scapegoat for Arabic speakers Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about scapegoat
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