sacred cow

noun
an individual, organization, institution, etc., considered to be exempt from criticism or questioning.

Origin:
1905–10; in reference to the traditional inviolability of the cow among Hindus

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
sacred cow
 
n
informal a person, institution, custom, etc, unreasonably held to be beyond criticism
 
[alluding to the Hindu belief that cattle are sacred]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

sacred cow definition


Figuratively, anything that is beyond criticism: “That housing project is a real sacred cow: the city council won't hear of abandoning it.” In India, followers of Hinduism consider cows sacred and do not eat them because they believe the animals contain the souls of dead persons.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

sacred cow

A person or thing immune to criticism or questioning, as in The rules governing the press conference have become a sacred cow in this administration. This term alludes to the honored status of cows in Hinduism, where they are a symbol of God's generosity to humankind. It has been used figuratively since about 1900.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

sacred cow

in Hinduism, the belief that the cow is representative of divine and natural beneficence and should therefore be protected and venerated. The cow has also been associated with various deities, notably Shiva (whose steed is a bull), Indra (closely associated with Kamadhenu, the wish-granting cow), Krishna (a cowherd in his youth), and goddesses in general (because of the maternal attributes of many of them).

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
They rewrite the universe from the ground up, shaking up the status quo and
  leaving no sacred cow untenderized.
The next sacred cow will surely be tenure, and exactly the same comments apply.
Maybe it's high time someone had the temerity to call this sacred cow a
  nightmare.
There is not much prospect of changing this political sacred cow.
Synonyms
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