weth·​er ˈwe-t͟hər How to pronounce wether (audio)
: a male sheep castrated before sexual maturity
also : a castrated male goat

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How the Wether Came to Be a Trendsetter

Wether now typically refers to a castrated male sheep, although the word initially had the meaning of simply “a male sheep,” without any indication of its reproductive abilities. Wether serves as the second component of the word bellwether (“one that takes the lead or initiative” or “an indicator of trends”). The use of bellwether in this sense is from the practice of placing a bell around the neck of the sheep which would lead the flock, and not from any natural capacity for leadership on the part of this kind of animal.

Examples of wether in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web For wethers, neutered goats, behavior accounts for 25 out of a possible 100 points. Jacob Sweet, sacbee, 27 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wether.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, ram, from Old English; akin to Old High German widar ram, Latin vitulus calf, vetus old, Greek etos year

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of wether was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near wether

Cite this Entry

“Wether.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wether. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

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