scapegoat

/skayp"goht'/, n.
1. a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.
2. Chiefly Biblical. a goat let loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest symbolically laid the sins of the people on its head. Lev. 16:8,10,26.
v.t.
3. to make a scapegoat of: Strike leaders tried to scapegoat foreign competitors.
[1520-30; SCAPE2 + GOAT]

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In the Old Testament, a goat that was symbolically burdened with the sins of the people and then killed on Yom Kippur to rid Jerusalem of its iniquities.

Similar rituals were held elsewhere in the ancient world to transfer guilt or blame. In ancient Greece, human scapegoats were beaten and driven out of cities to mitigate calamities. In early Roman law, an innocent person was allowed to assume the penalty of another; Christianity reflects this notion in its belief that Jesus died to atone for the sins of mankind.

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Hebrew  Saʿir La-ʿazaʾzel 

      (“goat for Azazel”), in the Old Testament ritual of Yom Kippur (Lev. 16:8–10), a goat symbolically burdened with the sins of the Jewish people. Some scholars believe that the animal was chosen by lot to placate Azazel, a wilderness demon, then thrown over a precipice outside Jerusalem to rid the nation of its iniquities. By extension, a scapegoat has come to mean any group or individual that innocently bears the blame of others.

      The use of scapegoats has a long and varied history involving many kinds of animals, as well as human beings. In ancient Greece, human scapegoats (pharmakos) were used to mitigate a plague or other calamity or even to prevent such ills. The Athenians chose a man and woman for the festival of Thargelia. After being feasted, the couple was led around the town, beaten with green twigs, driven out of the city, and possibly even stoned. In this way the city was supposedly protected from ill fortune for another year.

      During the Roman (Roman religion) feast of Lupercalia, priests (Luperci) cut thongs from the sacrificial animals (goats and a dog), then raced around the walls of the old Palatine city, striking women (especially) as they passed with the thongs. A blow from the hide of the scapegoat was said to cure sterility. In early Roman law an innocent person was allowed to take upon himself the penalty of another who had confessed his own guilt. Christianity reflects this notion in its doctrine of justification and in its belief that Jesus Christ was the God-man who died to atone for the sins of all mankind.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • scapegoat — ► NOUN 1) a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings or mistakes of others. 2) (in the Bible) a goat sent into the wilderness after the Jewish chief priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it (Leviticus, chapter 16). ► VERB ▪… …   English terms dictionary

  • scapegoat — [skāp′gōt΄] n. [coined by TYNDALE William (1530) < SCAPE2 + GOAT, prob. from LL(Vulg.) caper emissarius, lit., emissary goat, transl. of Gr(Ec) tragos aperchomenos, departing goat, used as transl. of Heb sair laazazel < sair, he goat + l,… …   English World dictionary

  • Scapegoat — Scape goat , n. [Scape (for escape) + goat.] 1. (Jewish Antiq.) A goat upon whose head were symbolically placed the sins of the people, after which he was suffered to escape into the wilderness. Lev. xvi. 10. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence, a person or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • scapegoat — (n.) 1530, goat sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement, symbolic bearer of the sins of the people, coined by Tyndale from SCAPE (Cf. scape) (n.) + GOAT (Cf. goat) to translate L. caper emissarius, itself a translation in Vulgate of… …   Etymology dictionary

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  • Scapegoat — 16.The scapegoat is attested in two ritual texts in archives at Ebla of the 24th century BCE. [Ida Zatelli, The Origin of the Biblical Scapegoat Ritual: The Evidence of Two Eblaite Text , Vetus Testamentum 48.2 (April 1998:254 263).] They were… …   Wikipedia

  • scapegoat — I UK [ˈskeɪpˌɡəʊt] / US [ˈskeɪpˌɡoʊt] noun [countable] Word forms scapegoat : singular scapegoat plural scapegoats someone who is blamed for something that is not their fault, especially because someone else wants to avoid being blamed scapegoat… …   English dictionary

  • scapegoat — 1. noun /ˈskeɪpˌɡoʊt,ˈskeɪpˌɡəʊt/ a) 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. He is making me a scapegoat. b) Someone… …   Wiktionary

  • scapegoat — scape|goat1 [ skeıp,gout ] noun count someone who is blamed for something that is not their fault, especially because someone else wants to avoid being blamed: scapegoat for: She is being made a scapegoat for the commission s own mistakes.… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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