scapegoat

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

Coined by Tyndale from scape +‎ goat, interpreting Hebrew עֲזָאזֵל (azazél) (Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26), from an interpretation as coming from עֵז (ez, goat) and אוזל (ozél, escapes). First attested 1530.

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Noun[edit]

scapegoat (plural scapegoats)

  1. 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.
    • 1646, Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book II, ch 5
      alluding herein unto the heart of man and the precious bloud of our Saviour, who was typified by the Goat that was slain, and the scape-Goat in the Wilderness
  2. Someone punished for the error or errors of someone else.
    He is making me a scapegoat.
    • 1834, Thomas Babington Macaulay, "William Pitt, Earl of Chatham" [1]
      The new Secretary of State had been long sick of the perfidy and levity of the First Lord of the Treasury, and began to fear that he might be made a scapegoat to save the old intriguer who, imbecile as he seemed, never wanted dexterity where danger was to be avoided.

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Verb[edit]

scapegoat (third-person singular simple present scapegoats, present participle scapegoating, simple past and past participle scapegoated)

  1. (transitive) To punish someone for the error or errors of someone else; to make a scapegoat of.
    • 1950, Rachel Davis DuBois, Neighbors in Action: A Manual for Local Leaders in Intergroup Relations, page 37:
      People tend to fear and then to scapegoat ... groups which seem to them to be fundamentally different from their own.
    • 1975, Richard M. Harris, Adam Kendon, Mary Ritchie Key, Organization of Behavior in Face-to-face Interaction, p66
      They had been used for centuries to justify or rationalize the behavior of that status and conversely to scapegoat and blame some other category of people.
    • 1992, George H.W. Bush, State of the Union Address[2]:
      And I want to add, as we make these changes, we work together to improve this system, that our intention is not scapegoating and finger-pointing.
    • 2004, Yvonne M. Agazarian, Systems-Centered Therapy for Groups, page 208:
      Then either the world or others or the self becomes the target for the human tendency to scapegoat.
  2. (transitive) To blame something for the problems of a given society without evidence to back up the claim.

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