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[bel-weth-er] /ˈbɛlˌwɛð ər/
a wether or other male sheep that leads the flock, usually bearing a bell.
a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry:
Paris is a bellwether of the fashion industry.
a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend; index.
a person who leads a mob, mutiny, conspiracy, or the like; ringleader.
Origin of bellwether
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English; see bell1, wether
2. leader, pacesetter, frontrunner, trailblazer. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for bellwether
  • Turner's victory should not be seen as a bellwether.
  • Other college leaders are not so enthusiastic about using the labor market as a bellwether of college quality.
  • Ignoring this data in favour of profit margins makes your comment a bellwether of the extinction of mankind.
  • Experts said the failure was likely due to a poorly run operation and was not an industry bellwether.
  • For higher education, this new gig may or may not be a bellwether.
  • FedEx is considered a bellwether of economic activity.
  • The elections were also seen as a bellwether for similar efforts within the industry to unionize.
  • Where a country buries its dead is a bellwether of political life and social fabric.
  • Temporary staffing is often a bellwether of employment.
  • When push comes to shove, the bellwether of state-capitalist decisions will be political in nature and suboptimal economically.
British Dictionary definitions for bellwether


a sheep that leads the herd, often bearing a bell
a leader, esp one followed unquestioningly
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Contemporary definitions for bellwether

a belled male sheep

Word Origin

Middle English belle 'bell' + wether 'castrated male sheep''s 21st Century Lexicon
Copyright © 2003-2014, LLC
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Word Origin and History for bellwether

mid-14c. (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin; late 12c. as a surname), from bell (n.) + wether; the lead sheep (on whose neck a bell was hung) of a domesticated flock. Figurative sense of "chief, leader" is from mid-14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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