golden calf

[ gohl-duhn kaf, kahf ]
/ ˈgoʊl dən ˈkæf, ˈkɑf /


a golden idol set up by Aaron and worshiped by the Israelites. Exodus 32.
either of the two similar idols set up by Jeroboam. 1 Kings 12:28, 29.
money or material goods as an object of worship or pursuit.



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Origin of golden calf

First recorded in 1350–1400 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for golden calf

golden calf


Old Testament
  1. an idol made by Aaron and set up for the Israelites to worship (Exodus 32)
  2. either of two similar idols set up by Jeroboam I at Dan and Bethel in the northern kingdom (I Kings 12:28–30)
informal the pursuit or idolization of material wealth
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

Cultural definitions for golden calf

golden calf

An idol that the Israelites made during the Exodus. While God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments and other provisions of the Mosaic law on Mount Sinai, the people whom Moses was leading to the Promised Land melted down their gold jewelry and ornaments and built a golden calf, which they began to worship. Moses came down from the mountain carrying two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written; when he saw the calf, he smashed the tablets and made the people destroy the idol.

notes for golden calf

By extension, a “golden calf” is any false god or anything worshiped undeservedly.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.