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From scape + goat; coined by English biblical scholar and translator William Tyndale, interpreting Biblical Hebrew עֲזָאזֵל (“azazél”) (Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26), from an interpretation as coming from עֵז (ez, “goat”) and אוזל (ozél, “escapes”). First attested 1530. Compare English scapegrace, scapegallows.
scapegoat (plural scapegoats)
- 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.
- 1530, [William Tyndale, transl., The Pentateuch] (Tyndale Bible), Leuiticus xvj:, folio XXIX, verso:
- And Aarõ caſt lottes ouer the .ij. gootes: one lotte for the Lorde, ãd another for a ſcapegoote.
- 1650, Thomas Browne, “Compendiously of Sundry Other Common Tenents, Concerning Minerall and Terreous Bodies, Which Examined, Prove Either False or Dubious”, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica: […], 2nd edition, London: […] A[braham] Miller, for Edw[ard] Dod and Nath[aniel] Ekins, […], →OCLC, 2nd book, page 64:
- […]; alluding herein unto the heart of man, and the precious bloud of our Saviour; who was typified indeed by the Goat that was ſlain, and the ſcape Goat in the wilderneſſe;
- Someone unfairly blamed or punished for some failure.
- Synonyms: fall guy, patsy, whipping boy; see also Thesaurus:scapegoat
- He is making me a scapegoat for his own poor business decisions and the supply chain disruptions caused by the hurricane!
- 1834, Thomas Babington Macaulay, William Pitt, Earl of Chatham:
- 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.
a goat imbued with the sins of the people
someone blamed for someone else's error(s)
scapegoat (third-person singular simple present scapegoats, present participle scapegoating, simple past and past participle scapegoated)
- (transitive, intransitive) To unfairly blame or punish someone for some failure; 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, page 66:
- 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:
- 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.
to blame or punish for the errors of others
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