Monday, June 20, 2005

Word of the Day: Bellwether

1. The leading sheep of a flock, on whose neck a bell is hung.

2. [Figuratively] A chief or leader. (Mostly contemptuous.)

3. [Figuartively] a. A clamorous person, one ready to give mouth. b. (Used opprobriously [i.e. in an insulting or contempuous manner])

Hence bell-wethering, the fact of leading and being led ‘like sheep.’ bell-wetherishness, tendency to follow one who takes the lead.

[E.g.] 1882 Spectator 25 Mar. [page 387] The gregariousness, and bell-wetherishness of the English people, who must all do the same thing at once.

Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed., 1989

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