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sheep

[sheep]
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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
  1. separate the sheep from the goats, to separate good people from bad or those intended for a specific end from unqualified people.

Origin of sheep

before 900; Middle English; Old English (north) scēp; cognate with Dutch schaap, German Schaf
Related formssheep·less, adjectivesheep·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for sheep

sheep

noun plural 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 adjective: 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
Derived Formssheeplike, adjective

Word Origin

Old English sceap; related to Old Frisian skēp, Old Saxon scāp, Old High German scāf

SHEEP

abbreviation for
  1. Sky High Earnings Expectations Possibly: applied to investments that appear to offer high returns but may be unreliable
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for sheep

n.

ruminant mammal, Old English sceap, scep, from West Germanic *skæpan (cf. Old Saxon scap, Old Frisian skep, Middle Low German schap, Middle Dutch scaep, Dutch schaap, Old High German scaf, German Schaf), of unknown origin. Not found in Scandinavian (cf. Danish faar "sheep") or Gothic (which uses lamb), and with no known cognates outside Germanic. The more usual Indo-European word for the animal is represented in English by ewe.

The plural form was leveled with the singular in Old English, but Old Northumbrian had a plural scipo. Used since Old English as a type of timidity and figuratively of those under the guidance of God. The meaning "stupid, timid person" is attested from 1540s. The image of the wolf in sheep's clothing was in Old English (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 but seems not to have been commonly written about until 1870s. It might simply be a type of a tedious activity, but an account of shepherd life from Australia from 1849 ["Sidney's Emigrant's Journal"] describes the night-shepherd ("hut-keeper") taking a count of the sheep regularly at the end of his shift to protect against being answerable for any animals later lost or killed.

Sheep's eyes "loving looks" is attested from 1520s (cf. West Frisian skiepseach, Dutch schaapsoog, German Schafsauge). A sheep-biter was "a dog that worries sheep" (1540s); "a mutton-monger" (1590s); and "a whore-monger" (1610s, i.e. one who "chases mutton"); hence Shakespeare's sheep-biting "thieving, sneaky."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with sheep

sheep

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.