Shibboleth meaning

shĭbə-lĭth, -lĕth
Frequency:
The test word used by the men of Gilead to distinguish the escaping Ephraimites, who pronounced the initial (′sh) as (s): Judg. 12:4-6
noun
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Any phrase, custom, etc. distinctive of a particular party, class, etc.
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A word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another.
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A custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider.
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A word, especially seen as a test, to distinguish someone as belonging to a particular nation, class, profession etc.
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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.

noun
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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.

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Any test word or password.
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Origin of shibboleth

  • Ultimately 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)

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

  • From Hebrew שבולת (Å¡ibbōlet, “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)

    From Wiktionary