Definition of scapegoat in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈskeɪpɡəʊt/


1A person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.
Example sentences
  • They might be poor - and society tends to use the poor as scapegoats for the wrong doings of the big hands - but not all bad.
  • Labor and Liberal politicians both gain, along with capitalism's ruling class, when workers blame scapegoats for a life of insecurity and want, rather than the government or system.
  • But rather than seeing what it is we don't like, as the result of our culture and collective stupidity that gave the automobile so much power, we blame our problems on scapegoats.
whipping boy, victim, Aunt Sally;
North American  goat
informal fall guy
North American informal patsy
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 (Lev. 16).
Example sentences
  • Like the dogs, the scapegoats were, Strelan argues, central to the purificatory rites of Asia Minor where the churches addressed in Revelation are located.
  • Both dogs and scapegoats will be shown to be central in many of the purificatory rituals of Asia Minor where the churches addressed in Revelation are located.


[with object]
Make a scapegoat of: secret police scapegoated a few of the ringleaders to put an end to the issue
More example sentences
  • The Republicans scapegoated gays to win the election.
  • And I said it at the beginning, I felt that these guys were getting scapegoated, and I absolutely stand by that.
  • Jesus never scapegoated people who had less power than the majority and never endorsed the human tendency to draw distinctions between in and out groups.


Mid 16th century: from archaic scape 'escape' + goat.

  • In the biblical Book of Leviticus God tells Moses that the Jewish people should take two goats and cast lots to determine their fate—the chief priest is to lay the sins of the people on one before driving it out into the wilderness, while the other is to be sacrificed. The animal driven away is the scapegoat. This was the only context in which the word appeared until the early 19th century, when it extended its meaning to ‘a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings of others’. The first part, scape, is a shortening of escape, as the goat escapes death by sacrifice.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: scape|goat

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