bellwether

[bel-weth-er]

noun

a wether or other male sheep that leads the flock, usually bearing a bell.
a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry: Paris is a bellwether of the fashion industry.
a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend; index.
a person who leads a mob, mutiny, conspiracy, or the like; ringleader.

Origin of bellwether

late Middle English word dating back to 1400–50; see origin at bell1, wether

Synonyms for bellwether

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for bellwether

forerunner, guide, lead, sheep, doyen

Examples from the Web for bellwether

Contemporary Examples of bellwether

Historical Examples of bellwether


British Dictionary definitions for bellwether

bellwether

noun

a sheep that leads the herd, often bearing a bell
a leader, esp one followed unquestioningly
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 bellwether
n.

mid-14c. (late 13c. in Anglo-Latin; late 12c. as a surname), from bell (n.) + wether; the lead sheep (on whose neck a bell was hung) of a domesticated flock. Figurative sense of "chief, leader" is from mid-14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper