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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.


  • (Canada, US) IPA(key): /ˈskeɪpˌɡoʊt/
  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈskeɪpˌɡəʊt/
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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.
    • 1530 January 27 (Gregorian calendar), W[illiam] T[yndale], transl., [The Pentateuch] (Tyndale Bible), Malborow [Marburg], Hesse: [] Hans Luft [actually Antwerp: Johan Hoochstraten], →OCLC, Leuiticus xvj:[8], 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;
  2. 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[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.




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

  1. (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[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.
    • 2023 December 11, Rory Hearne, “Ireland’s housing crisis is a disaster for its people – and a gift to far-right fearmongers”, in The Guardian[3], →ISSN:
      The question we should be asking is: who benefits when migrants and refugees are scapegoated for anger about housing?


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