AskDefine | Define scapegoat

Dictionary Definition

scapegoat n : someone punished for the errors of others [syn: whipping boy]

User Contributed Dictionary



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


  • /ˈskeɪpˌgoʊt/
  • a UK /ˈskeɪpˌgəʊt/, /"skeIp.g@Ut/


  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"
      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.


someone punished for someone else's error(s)
  • Arabic: كبش فداء
  • Chinese: 替罪羊 (tì zùi yáng)
  • Dutch: zondebok
  • Finnish: syntipukki
  • French: bouc émissaire
  • German: Sündenbock
  • Greek: αποδιοπομπαίος τράγος (apodiopompeos tragos), εξιλαστήριο θύμα (eksilastirio thima)
  • trreq Hebrew
  • Hungarian: bűnbak
  • Icelandic: blóraböggull
  • Indonesian: kambing hitam
  • Italian: capro espiatorio
  • Lithuanian: atpirkimo ožys
  • Norwegian: syndebukk
  • Polish: kozioł ofiarny
  • Russian: козёл отпущения (kozjól otpuščénija)
  • Spanish: cabeza de turco, chivo expiatorio
  • Swedish: syndabock
  • Turkish: günah keçisi


  1. To punish someone for the error or errors of someone else; to make a scapegoat of.
    Don't scapegoat me for your mistake.
    • 1950: Rachel Davis DuBois, Neighbors in Action: A Manual for Local Leaders in Intergroup Relations, p37
      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, p66
      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, p208
      Then either the world or others or the self becomes the target for the human tendency to scapegoat.


Related terms

Extensive Definition


External links

  • The Scapegoats UK Rock band
scapegoat in Arabic: كبش فداء
scapegoat in Bulgarian: Жертвен козел
scapegoat in Czech: Obětní beránek
scapegoat in German: Sündenbock
scapegoat in Spanish: Chivo expiatorio
scapegoat in Esperanto: Propeka kapro
scapegoat in French: Bouc émissaire
scapegoat in Croatian: Žrtveni jarac
scapegoat in Indonesian: Kambing hitam
scapegoat in Italian: Capro espiatorio
scapegoat in Hebrew: שעיר לעזאזל
scapegoat in Limburgan: Zondebók
scapegoat in Dutch: Zondebok
scapegoat in Japanese: スケープゴート
scapegoat in Norwegian: Syndebukk
scapegoat in Polish: Kozioł ofiarny
scapegoat in Portuguese: Bode expiatório
scapegoat in Russian: Козёл отпущения
scapegoat in Serbian: Жртвени јарац
scapegoat in Swedish: Syndabock
scapegoat in Chinese: 代罪羔羊

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

burnt offering, collection, drink offering, dupe, ex voto offering, fall guy, front, goat, gull, heave offering, hecatomb, holocaust, human sacrifice, immolation, incense, infanticide, libation, mactation, man of straw, mark, oblation, offering, offertory, patsy, peace offering, piacular offering, sacramental offering, sacrifice, self-immolation, self-sacrifice, straw man, sucker, suttee, sutteeism, target, thank offering, victim, votive offering, whipping boy, whole offering
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