Definition of sheep in English:



  • 1A domesticated ruminant mammal with a thick woolly coat and (typically only in the male) curving horns. It is kept in flocks for its wool or meat, and is proverbial for its tendency to follow others in the flock.

    • ‘In the case of meat sheep versus wool sheep, wool is usually around $10 a kilo, and meat $2 a kilo.’
    • ‘Driven to desperation by lack of water for his men and small flocks of sheep and cattle, Eyre had followed Aboriginal tracks to the foot of the sand dunes, where he noticed damp patches.’
    • ‘A dog is still a dog with a docked tail, but would a sheep be a sheep without wool?’
    • ‘But the global technology recession is culling the ranks of that talent as swiftly as the men in white coats dispose of sheep and cattle on foot-and-mouth infected farms.’
    • ‘Because he would not abandon the flock for a lost sheep after the others had bedded down for the night, he turned back, searched the thickets and gullies.’
    • ‘In the summer, the wild mammals are joined by flocks of domestic sheep and goats left to graze in the meadows.’
    • ‘The male sheep rammed several vehicles, leaving a trail of damage in his wake, before turning his annoyance on one of the dealership's staff.’
    • ‘They used every part of the sheep, eating the meat and weaving the wool into clothing and blankets, Kady said.’
    • ‘The sequence follows a journey undertaken by a flock of sheep, which follows one of their number out of their field, as they tend to do.’
    • ‘They consider the desolate border area part of their territory and follow their goats, sheep and cattle there to graze.’
    • ‘Chickens and turkeys were kept both for their eggs and meat just as sheep provided wool and meat.’
    • ‘To one side was a rolling expanse of pasture land, clustered with flocks of sheep so thick that hundreds must graze there.’
    • ‘My hat was raccoon, my coat was made from the skins of a flock of sheep, and I had knee-high reindeer boots.’
    • ‘Today, Merino wool is taken from sheep and lambs in Australia and New Zealand as well.’
    • ‘In the years leading up to the crash, the cod had been evolving much like the sheep on Ram Mountain.’
    • ‘Regardless of the time frame it is generally accepted that the domestication of cattle followed sheep, goats, and pigs.’
    • ‘And so the sheep wanders from the flock and follows its own course.’
    • ‘Pastoralists sold sheep and cattle for meat and leather to the goldfields, and used the profits to buy freehold land and build fences and homesteads.’
    • ‘Since 15 to 25 percent of male sheep in U.S. flocks don't mate, ranchers want to find a way to identify good breeding rams.’
    • ‘Finds of animal bones reveal that the ox and the cow were domesticated as were sheep and goats (kept for meat and wool).’
    ram, ewe, lamb, wether, bellwether
    jumbuck, woolly
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A wild mammal related to this, such as the argali, bighorn, bharal, and urial.
      • ‘He moved on to Iceland and saw interesting sheep with long wool and leather without grease.’
      • ‘Wildlife, including the Tibetan antelope and the Argali sheep, has also been threatened by indiscriminate hunting.’
      • ‘Low, rugged mountains criss-cross the desert and are home to argali sheep and Siberian ibex.’
      • ‘The hot spot is also home to a rich variety of ungulates (animals with hooves), including the threatened argali wild sheep.’
  • 2Used with reference to people who are too easily influenced or led.

    ‘party members should not follow their leader like sheep’
    • ‘He didn't say only the sheep whose parents make smart choices.’
    • ‘I'm just thankful to my bended knees that the stoned out, easily influenced hippie sheep of the day didn't buy more copies of it.’
    • ‘Don't be a sheep and follow the flock, do something for yourselves, for God's sake.’
    • ‘How many different ways can you write that the American people are a bunch of clueless sheep, led by some very cynical swine?’
    • ‘Of course not - everyone feels sorry for him, but we don't wander round beating our chests and wailing like the easily led sheep of Liverpool do…’
    • ‘I'm not a desperate, easily-imprinted sheep, after all; I don't need answers, just the right questions.’
    • ‘Music is in itself a genre that demands difference, but easily allows for many sheep.’
    • ‘Perhaps the inhabitants are sheep, easily lead around by the government etc.’
    • ‘That's all Caribbean politicians do, lead the sheep of state.’
  • 3A person regarded as a protected follower of God.

    • ‘For He rules the universe to build His church and to shepherd His sheep with love and wisdom.’
    • ‘God loves us deeply, intensely, and he cares about even the most incredibly lost and stubbornly unrepentant sheep.’
    • ‘The Good Shepherd could afford to rejoice in the lost sheep that was found; His sheep did not pose a risk of legal liability.’
    • ‘Christ not only died for the sins of His sheep on the Cross but he established their righteousness through His perfect obedience to God's Law.’
    • ‘Through Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, God offers eternal life to all!’
    • ‘And amid all this we are to preach the gospel of salvation, gathering in the lost sheep of Christ till the church is complete.’
    • ‘Second, I believe that religious folk have a dual responsibility: on one hand, there is the pastoral call to feed the sheep.’
    • ‘The church is not merely an organisation; it comprises the sheep for whom Christ died.’
    • ‘But, God was stronger than their weakness and continued to bring the straying sheep back to the Lord Jesus Christ.’
    • ‘But, above all, he was one of the lost sheep whom the Lord Jesus Christ sought out and saved.’
    • ‘He illustrates well how the Lord Jesus values his sheep.’
    • ‘They are his sheep who hear their Master's voice and follow - pleased to do all his will who saves them and keeps them by his grace.’
    • ‘Ultimately, we will become more like Jesus himself, who never tired of seeking his lost sheep.’
    • ‘The Good Shepherd lays down his life, that is gives everything for the sheep so that they are nurtured and protected.’
    • ‘And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.’
    • ‘What will they do when they stand before God's holy throne and watch helplessly as, one by one, many of their sheep are condemned because they were never confronted about their sins?’
    • ‘To preach a sweet Christ to the fleshly world is the most potent poison that has been given to the dear sheep of Christ from the very beginning.’
    • ‘He risked his life for the sheep so that his father had no loss.’
    • ‘How happy we will be if we imitate our Good Shepherd and pastor of our souls, his sheep for whom he has done so much.’
    • ‘When He sent His disciples out He told them to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’
    1. 3.1A member of a minister's congregation.
      • ‘The head of the parish and the leader of our services was the pastor and we, the congregation, were his sheep, or the ‘flock’.’
      • ‘Wouldn't it be wonderful if you, as the shepherd of your class, could develop a whole team of shepherds to reach out to many of the drifting sheep in your congregation?’


  • count sheep

    • Count imaginary sheep jumping over a fence one by one in an attempt to send oneself to sleep.

      • ‘Oh, poor you… try counting sheep jumping over gates or something, that usually works for you.’
      • ‘So, needing some beauty sleep, and thinking whilst counting sheep, I went to bed, and a magical mantra came to me in a dream (which is where my snazziest artsy notions usually pop up).’
      • ‘Sometimes when I went to bed I would mull over the day, and instead of counting sheep, I would count the drinks I'd had.’
      • ‘I started counting sheep, which didn't send me to sleep but reminded me of what I wanted to write to you about.’
      • ‘I've tried every single technique - counting sheep, reciting the periodic table, counting down from 100… none of it works.’
      • ‘She crawled into her bed, prepared to count sheep, but sleep claimed her the minute her head made contact with the pillow.’
      • ‘‘Normal people count sheep when they sleep and dream,’ Julia said.’
      • ‘And they forgot a few simple facts while counting sheep.’
      • ‘I had a hard time sleeping last night, and even had to resort to counting sheep.’
      • ‘When insomnia chases sleep away, counting sheep or tossing and turning all night seem to be the only alternatives.’
  • make sheep's eyes at someone

    • Look at someone in a foolishly amorous way.

      • ‘Munnuswamy's son, Gopala, makes sheep's eyes at Sripathi Rao's sister Putti and, what is worse, his spinster sister, quite unmindful of her superior Brahmin ancestry, simpers back.’


Old English scēp, scǣp, scēap, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch schaap and German Schaf.