scapegoat

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

Coined by Tyndale from scape +‎ goat, interpreting Hebrew עזאזל (Azazel) (Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26), from an interpretation as coming from עז (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.
    Don't scapegoat me for your mistake.
    • 1950, Rachel Davis DuBois, Neighbors in Action: A Manual for Local Leaders in Intergroup Relations, p37
      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, p208
      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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