• scapegoat •
skayp-gowt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Originally, a goat chosen by lot to be sent into the wilderness, symbolically invested with the sins of the Israelites to atone for them on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. 2. Someone or something to which blame is diverted, someone who is 'framed' for something he or she did not do.
Notes: This noun, too, may be 'verbed': 'to scapegoat someone'. This allows a personal noun, scapegoater, and an abstract action noun, scapegoating. Persistent scapegoating may be called scapegoatism "the practice of scapegoating".
In Play: Here is how we use the noun: "Immigrants are convenient scapegoats for high unemployment." The verb may be used like this: "After the fire than burned down the company office, smokers were scapegoated for every flame that appeared in the new building."
Word History: Today's Good Word was coined by William Tyndale (1494-1536), an English biblical scholar who used it to translate Latin caper emissarius "emissary goat". Caper emissarius was a translation of Hebrew azazel, which was probably read as el ozel "goat that departs", though other interpretations have been advanced. Scape was an aphetic variant of escape. ('Aphesis' is the omission of the initial sound or syllable of a word, like 'possum and 'gator.) Escape is an interesting word: it originates in Latin excappare "get out of a cape" from ex "out of, from" + cappa "mantel". The original idea was to leave someone you are escaping from with just your cape. (We cannot escape thanking Jackie Strauss for suggesting yet another excellent Good Word.)
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