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definition of the word scapegoat

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Coined by Tyndale from scape + goat, translating Hebrew עזאזל (Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26). First attested 1530.



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: 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 — Sir Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book II, ch 5
  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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