whipping boy

Idioms & Phrases

whipping boy

A scapegoat, as in This department's always been the whipping boy when things don't go well. This expression alludes to the former practice of keeping a boy to be whipped in place of a prince who was to be punished. [Early 1900s]

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