scapegoat

[16] In biblical times the ritual of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, included a ceremony involving two goats: one was sacrificed to God, and the other was sent off into the wilderness as the symbolic bearer of the people’s sins. This second goat was termed ‘azāzēl. That appears to have been a proper name, said in Jewish tradition to be that of a demon to whom the goat was sent, and may be linked with Aziz, the name of a Canaanite god. Later commentators, however, interpreted it as equivalent to Hebrew ‘ēz ōzēl, which means ‘goat that departs’. In the Latin of the Vulgate, that was rendered as caper emissarius (whence the French expression bouc émissaire, literally ‘goat sent forth’), and William Tindale, in his 1530 translation of the Bible, expressed it as scapegoat (the first part, scape, is a shortened form of escape). The modern metaphorical application to someone who takes the blame for others’ faults dates from the early 19th century.
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   The word for a person made to bear the blame for others derives from the words used by William Tyndale when translating the Bible in 1530 to render Hebrew azazel, probably really meaning 'goat for Azazel') (a desert demon): 'the goote on which the lotte fell to scape,' in the Authorised Version: 'the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat' (Leviticus 16:10). A scapegoat is literally a 'goat that escapes,' otherwise a goat symbolically laden with the sins of the Israelites and sent into the wilderness to die.

The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • scapegoat — Ⅰ. scapegoat UK US /ˈskeɪpgəʊt/ noun [C] ► a person or thing that is blamed for something bad that someone else has done: »Politicians have used the financial sector as a scapegoat for the global economic crisis. Ⅱ. scapegoat UK US /ˈskeɪpɡəʊt/… …   Financial and business terms

  • scapegoat — ► NOUN 1) a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings or mistakes of others. 2) (in the Bible) a goat sent into the wilderness after the Jewish chief priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it (Leviticus, chapter 16). ► VERB ▪… …   English terms dictionary

  • scapegoat — [skāp′gōt΄] n. [coined by TYNDALE William (1530) < SCAPE2 + GOAT, prob. from LL(Vulg.) caper emissarius, lit., emissary goat, transl. of Gr(Ec) tragos aperchomenos, departing goat, used as transl. of Heb sair laazazel < sair, he goat + l,… …   English World dictionary

  • Scapegoat — Scape goat , n. [Scape (for escape) + goat.] 1. (Jewish Antiq.) A goat upon whose head were symbolically placed the sins of the people, after which he was suffered to escape into the wilderness. Lev. xvi. 10. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence, a person or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • scapegoat — (n.) 1530, goat sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement, symbolic bearer of the sins of the people, coined by Tyndale from SCAPE (Cf. scape) (n.) + GOAT (Cf. goat) to translate L. caper emissarius, itself a translation in Vulgate of… …   Etymology dictionary

  • scapegoat — [n] person who takes blame for another’s action boob*, chump, doormat*, dupe, easy mark*, fall guy*, fool, goat*, gull*, mark*, patsy, pigeon*, pushover*, sacrifice, sap*, schmuck*, sitting duck*,  stooge, sucker, victim, weakling; concept 412 …   New thesaurus

  • Scapegoat — 16.The scapegoat is attested in two ritual texts in archives at Ebla of the 24th century BCE. [Ida Zatelli, The Origin of the Biblical Scapegoat Ritual: The Evidence of Two Eblaite Text , Vetus Testamentum 48.2 (April 1998:254 263).] They were… …   Wikipedia

  • scapegoat — I UK [ˈskeɪpˌɡəʊt] / US [ˈskeɪpˌɡoʊt] noun [countable] Word forms scapegoat : singular scapegoat plural scapegoats someone who is blamed for something that is not their fault, especially because someone else wants to avoid being blamed scapegoat… …   English dictionary

  • scapegoat — 1. noun /ˈskeɪpˌɡoʊt,ˈskeɪpˌɡəʊt/ a) In the Mosaic Day of Atonement ritual, a goat symbolically imbued with the sins of the people, and sent out alive into the wilderness while another was sacrificed. He is making me a scapegoat. b) Someone… …   Wiktionary

  • scapegoat — /skayp goht /, n. 1. a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place. 2. Chiefly Biblical. a goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head …   Universalium

  • scapegoat — scape|goat1 [ skeıp,gout ] noun count someone who is blamed for something that is not their fault, especially because someone else wants to avoid being blamed: scapegoat for: She is being made a scapegoat for the commission s own mistakes.… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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