- The definition of a shibboleth is a password or test phrase.
An example of a shibboleth is a phrase used by a guest to get into a Masonic club.
- the test word used by the men of Gilead to distinguish the escaping Ephraimites, who pronounced the initial (s̸h) as (s): Judg. 12:4-6
- any test word or password
- any phrase, custom, etc. distinctive of a particular party, class, etc.
Origin of shibbolethMiddle English sebolech, after Ecclesiastical Late Latin sciboleth ; from Classical Hebrew (language) shibolet, a stream: present tense meaning from the use of the word as a test word
- A word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another.
- a. A word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a catchword.b. A commonplace saying or idea.
- A custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider.
Origin of shibbolethUltimately from Hebrew šibbōlet, torrent of water, from the use of this word to distinguish one tribe from another that pronounced it sibbōlet (Judges 12:4–6).
- A word, especially seen as a test, to distinguish someone as belonging to a particular nation, class, profession etc.
- A common or longstanding belief, custom, or catchphrase associated with a particular group, especially one with little current meaning or truth.
- It's about time we abandoned the bourgeois shibboleth that earning money makes you a better person.
From Hebrew שבולת (šibbōlet, “ear of wheat”), with reference to Judges 12:5-6: ‘Gilead then cut Ephraim off from the fords of the Jordan, and whenever Ephraimite fugitives said, “Let me cross,” the men of Gilead would ask, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” they then said, “Very well, say Shibboleth.” If anyone said “Sibboleth”, but could not pronounce it, they would then seize him and kill him by the fords of the Jordan.’ (New Jerusalem Bible)