From Hebrew שִׁבֹּלֶת / שיבולת (šibbōlet, “ear of wheat”), with reference to Judges 12:5-6: ‘Gilead then cut Ephraim off from the fords of the Jordan, and whenever Ephraimite fugitives said, “Let me cross,” the men of Gilead would ask, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” they then said, “Very well, say Shibboleth.” If anyone said “Sibboleth”, but could not pronounce it, they would then seize him and kill him by the fords of the Jordan’ (New Jerusalem Bible).
shibboleth (plural shibboleths)
- A word, especially seen as a test, to distinguish someone as belonging to a particular nation, class, profession etc.
- A common or longstanding belief, custom, or catchphrase associated with a particular group, especially one with little current meaning or truth.
- It's about time we abandoned the bourgeois shibboleth that earning money makes you a better person.