Word of the Day
Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Definitions for shibboleth

  1. a peculiarity of pronunciation, behavior, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular class or set of persons.
  2. a slogan; catchword.
  3. a common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth.

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Citations for shibboleth
The latter air is indeed the shibboleth and diploma piece of the penny whistler; I hazard a guess it was originally composed for this instrument. Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, The Wrong Box, 1889
“There’s been talk about the continental free trade agreement for many, many years, but it’s been more like a shibboleth that shows you’re committed to regional integration on the continent,” said Christopher Wood, an expert on economic diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs. Norimitsu Onishi, "Talks to Begin on Creating a Trade Zone Within Africa," New York Times, June 12, 2015
Origin of shibboleth
Shibboleth entered English from the Hebrew and was a word used by the Gileadites as a test to detect the fleeing Ephraimites, who could not pronounce the sh sound.