separate the sheep from the goats

sheep

[sheep]
noun, plural sheep.
1.
any of numerous ruminant mammals of the genus Ovis, of the family Bovidae, closely related to the goats, especially O. aries, bred in a number of domesticated varieties.
2.
leather made from the skin of these animals.
3.
a meek, unimaginative, or easily led person.
Idioms
4.
separate the sheep from the goats, to separate good people from bad or those intended for a specific end from unqualified people.

Origin:
before 900; Middle English; Old English (north) scēp; cognate with Dutch schaap, German Schaf

sheepless, adjective
sheeplike, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
sheep (ʃiːp)
 
n , pl sheep
1.  any of various bovid mammals of the genus Ovis and related genera, esp O. aries (domestic sheep), having transversely ribbed horns and a narrow face. There are many breeds of domestic sheep, raised for their wool and for meatRelated: ovine
2.  Barbary sheep another name for aoudad
3.  a meek or timid person, esp one without initiative
4.  separate the sheep from the goats to pick out the members of any group who are superior in some respects
 
Related: ovine
 
[Old English sceap; related to Old Frisian skēp, Old Saxon scāp, Old High German scāf]
 
'sheeplike
 
adj

SHEEP
 
abbreviation for
Sky High Earnings Expectations Possibly: applied to investments that appear to offer high returns but may be unreliable

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

sheep
O.E. sceap, scep, from W.Gmc. *skæpan (cf. O.S. scap, O.Fris. skep, M.L.G. schap, M.Du. scaep, Du. schaap, O.H.G. scaf, Ger. Schaf), of unknown origin. Not found in Scand. or Goth., and with no known cognates outside Gmc. The more usual I.E. word for the animal is represented by
ewe. As a type of timidity, from O.E.; the meaning "stupid, timid person" is attested from 1542. The image of the wolf in sheep's clothing was in O.E. (from Matt. vii.15); that of separating the sheep from the goats is from Matt. xxv.33. To count sheep in a bid to induce sleep is recorded from 1854. Sheep's eyes "loving looks" is attested from 1529 (cf. W.Fris. skiepseach, Du. schaapsoog, Ger. Schafsauge).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Easton
Bible Dictionary

Sheep definition


are of different varieties. Probably the flocks of Abraham and Isaac were of the wild species found still in the mountain regions of Persia and Kurdistan. After the Exodus, and as a result of intercourse with surrounding nations, other species were no doubt introduced into the herds of the people of Israel. They are frequently mentioned in Scripture. The care of a shepherd over his flock is referred to as illustrating God's care over his people (Ps. 23:1, 2; 74:1; 77:20; Isa. 40:11; 53:6; John 10:1-5, 7-16). "The sheep of Palestine are longer in the head than ours, and have tails from 5 inches broad at the narrowest part to 15 inches at the widest, the weight being in proportion, and ranging generally from 10 to 14 lbs., but sometimes extending to 30 lbs. The tails are indeed huge masses of fat" (Geikie's Holy Land, etc.). The tail was no doubt the "rump" so frequently referred to in the Levitical sacrifices (Ex. 29:22; Lev. 3:9; 7:3; 9:19). Sheep-shearing was generally an occasion of great festivity (Gen. 31:19; 38:12, 13; 1 Sam. 25:4-8, 36; 2 Sam. 13:23-28).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

separate the sheep from the goats

Distinguish between good and bad individuals, or superior and inferior ones. For example, In a civil war where both sides commit atrocities, you can't separate the sheep from the goats. This term refers to Jesus's prophecy in the New Testament (Matthew 25:32) that the sheep (that is, the compassionate) will sit on God's right hand (and find salvation), and the goats (the hard-hearted) will sit on the left (and be sent to damnation).

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