Definition of scapegoat in English:



  • 1A person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘What makes communalism explosive is the psychology of mass-desperation that creates the ideal climate for inventing scapegoats and hypothetical enemies.’
    • ‘The crisis ends with the victimisation of the guilty scapegoat through collective violence.’
    • ‘The quest for truth, North insists, is not about apportioning blame or naming scapegoats, but the prevention of future tragedies.’
    • ‘‘The focus is on scapegoats and fall guys, as though remedial action amounts to handing the public a few heads on a platter.’’
    • ‘A fourth was to attack the social problem not directly but indirectly, by blaming a particular scapegoat for its emergence.’
    • ‘The obvious thing to do would be to find a scapegoat, so they blame it on the bugs.’
    • ‘Teenagers have always been an easy scapegoat to blame for wider problems, but ultimately the majority of these young people grow up into well rounded adults.’
    • ‘But the animal is the convenient scapegoat, and easily blamed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘As a nation, we take losses very hard and spend the days after the fact nominating scapegoats and lamenting mistakes.’
    • ‘However, in contrast, my argument is that we need to be cautious about where we lay blame rather than pointing the finger at easy scapegoats.’
    • ‘When there is a problem, there always is a scapegoat to blame.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When are we going to tackle the epidemic of buck-passing and bad behaviour by grown-ups, and stop looking for syndromes and scapegoats to blame where our children are concerned?’
    • ‘Leaders will deny, blame, seek scapegoats, and retreat to their offices.’
    • ‘We are the smallest company involved in the whole set-up and we feel they are looking for a scapegoat - they have made some mistakes.’
    • ‘But its themes of partying while the world turns upside down, seeking scapegoats to blame for times being tough, and people denying the reality of change, turn out to be as pertinent as ever.’
    • ‘Instead of admitting our own mistakes in not providing the taxes to maintain and improve health care, we want a scapegoat to take the blame away from ourselves.’
    • ‘When people face a crisis, they often revert to an unfortunate human tendency: to protect their own while finding a scapegoat to blame the problem on.’
    whipping boy, victim, aunt sally
    fall guy
    View synonyms
  • 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)

    • ‘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.’


  • Make a scapegoat of.

    • ‘It is not a moral value to scapegoat undocumented immigrants.’
    • ‘Well, I think the Catholic Church isn't looking to scapegoat anyone.’
    • ‘He contends fundamentalist Christians and other conservatives scapegoat gays and lesbians.’
    • ‘And I said it at the beginning, I felt that these guys were getting scapegoated, and I absolutely stand by that.’
    • ‘One thing many Americans don't know, for example, is that German Americans were scapegoated during World War I, and were the victims of beatings, house burnings and other forms of violence.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The media, modernity, Americanism, and a permissive ‘therapeutic’ culture can be ritually scapegoated.’
    • ‘It was scapegoated just before Prohibition took hold of the United States, its detractors claimed it caused insanity, blindness and even death.’
    • ‘The point of this letter is not to scapegoat doctors (translation: I might be sick one day).’
    • ‘Asylum seekers should not be scapegoated for our longstanding social problems.’
    • ‘Davis appears to have paid the price for his conspiratorial reputation and has been scapegoated for the party's failure to make any political headway.’
    • ‘She is currently suspended from duty but she believes she has been unfairly scapegoated and is taking a High Court case to be re-instated.’
    • ‘The Republicans scapegoated gays to win the election.’
    • ‘I'm sick of being scapegoated by people who don't know what they're talking about.’
    • ‘Young Irish people are being scapegoated as binge drinkers and should not be blamed for the national increase in alcohol consumption, the president of the National Youth Council said yesterday.’
    • ‘Could it be there's method in the apparent madness of allowing these two to scapegoat others for Government failures?’
    • ‘The question is, does it serve us to scapegoat people now?’
    • ‘And so, in a cynical political exercise smacking of opportunism if not racism, they scapegoat the unborn children of non-national parents.’
    • ‘He says that he feels he had been scapegoated by the press.’
    • ‘For me, my perspective is this: it's easy to scapegoat or to try to scapegoat one person or another.’


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