some truth in the shibboleth that crime does not pay—Lee Rogow
: a use of language regarded as distinctive of a particular group
accent was … a shibboleth of social class—Vivian Ducat
: 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
Did you know?
The Bible's Book of Judges (12:4-6) tells the story of the Ephraimites, who, after they were routed by the Gileadite army, tried to retreat by sneaking across a ford of the Jordan River that was held by their enemy. The Gileadites, wary of the ploy, asked every soldier who tried to cross if he was an Ephraimite. When the soldier said "no," he was asked to say shibbōleth (which means "stream" in Hebrew). Gileadites pronounced the word "shibboleth," but Ephramites said "sibboleth." Anyone who didn't pronounce the initial sh was killed on the spot. When English speakers first borrowed shibboleth, they used it to mean "test phrase," but it has acquired additional meanings since that time.
She repeated the old shibboleth that time heals all wounds.
we knew that their claim of giving “the best deal in town” was just a shibboleth
Recent Examples on the WebMusk’s willingness to upend auto manufacturing shibboleths has also forced his legacy competitors to seek new efficiencies.—WIRED, 21 Sep. 2023 Nothing is sacrificed to the shibboleth of good taste.—Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 4 Sep. 2023 Far from being a shibboleth of evil, the company is like any other trying to turn a profit in the Western world in 2023, which comes with its own issues and frustrations separate from the ones posited by Kristof in his viral article.—Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 16 Mar. 2023 Along with the shibboleth that a failure to dominate encourages cop killing, the nineties study helped implant a second myth in police culture as well—that stopping cars is exceptionally dangerous to officers.—David D. Kirkpatrick, The New Yorker, 28 Jan. 2023 Saka has blown up that racist shibboleth by demonstrating an innate tactical knowledge.—Charlie Campbell, Time, 13 Oct. 2022 Her mission was to make a beautiful, livable, and—most important—eco-friendly interior that bucked the tired shibboleth that green living isn’t pretty.—Charles Curkin, ELLE Decor, 30 Sep. 2022 The ad was later changed slightly to fix the pronunciation of Pawtucket, a Rhode Island shibboleth.—Brian Amaral, BostonGlobe.com, 27 Sep. 2022 Diversity, after all, is generally regarded as a progressive shibboleth, not a Tory one.—Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic, 13 July 2022 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shibboleth.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Hebrew shibbōleth stream; from the use of this word in Judges 12:6 as a test to distinguish Gileadites from Ephraimites