Definition of shibboleth in US English:



  • A custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.

    ‘the party began to break with the shibboleths of the left’
    • ‘The various shocks that have convulsed the Japanese economy in the past decade have tested traditional management shibboleths to destruction.’
    • ‘It is mandatory reading for the high school and college students who are spoon-fed the politically correct shibboleths that obscure an understanding of the men to whom we owe a unique debt of gratitude for our freedom.’
    • ‘They broke with the old shibboleth that sovereignty cannot be divided and thus that there must be some supremely sovereign legislative body in every independent political unit.’
    • ‘Ideological liberalism and cutthroat business tactics went hand in hand with a slackened commitment to the traditional journalistic shibboleths of objectivity and accuracy in reporting.’
    • ‘Bizarre or not, uncritical attachment to old shibboleths inexorably yield contradiction.’
    • ‘He was up at the microphone chanting two of the most sacred lefty shibboleths.’
    • ‘It is more or less free of regional, class, and other shibboleths, although the issue of a ‘standard accent’ often causes trouble and tension.’
    • ‘It holds up the assumptions about Beauty, Truth, Genius, Civilisation, Taste and other shibboleths to bracing class and gender analysis.’
    • ‘And we can't blind ourselves to it or hide behind old shibboleths.’
    • ‘In these globalising times, nobody likes to hear the old shibboleth from the past.’
    • ‘Political correctness is a shibboleth, a convenient catch - all term with which progressive policies can be tainted by association with absurd anecdotes.’
    • ‘If it means questioning old shibboleths and finding new means of spending public money in partnership with the private sector then that might be no bad thing.’
    • ‘That is why those people arguing shibboleths, arguing for referendums, are defeating their own argument, because the strength of the argument we have heard today is exactly why we should not have a referendum.’
    • ‘Yet, it points to a tendency - I'll put it as weakly as that - toward re-marketing tired conservative shibboleths as funky new contrarian understandings.’
    • ‘But discarding a few outmoded shibboleths does not create a society that is at ease with itself and free of class anxieties, frictions and divisions.’
    • ‘In fact, it appears to us that a number of longstanding economic shibboleths are about to be blown apart if the dollar's descent continues.’
    • ‘We believe that it is based on utterly false allegations regarding the Minnesota legal system and that it provides for indoctrination in the shibboleths of political correctness.’
    • ‘As with the country's crusade against communism, the pointless violence reflects America's own shibboleths, fears, and internal politics rather than meaningful policy.’
    • ‘It's not bad to be reminded that there's a whole horde of men of his generation out there in the sticks for whom the old shibboleths are pretty important.’
    • ‘The old pre-war shibboleths of laissez-faire, including the hallowed principle of free trade itself, were bypassed or ignored.’
    tradition, practice, usage, observance, way, convention, procedure, ceremony, ritual, ordinance, form, formality, fashion, mode, manner
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Mid 17th century: from Hebrew šibbōleṯ ‘ear of corn’, used as a test of nationality by its difficult pronunciation (Judg. 12:6).