shibboleth

[ shib-uh-lith, ‐leth ]
/ ˈʃɪb ə lɪθ, ‐ˌlɛθ /

noun

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

Origin of shibboleth

< Hebrew shibbōleth literally, freshet, a word used by the Gileadites as a test to detect the fleeing Ephraimites, who could not pronounce the sound sh (Judges 12:4–6)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shibboleth

British Dictionary definitions for shibboleth

shibboleth

/ (ˈʃɪbəˌlɛθ) /

noun

a belief, principle, or practice which is commonly adhered to but which is thought by some people to be inappropriate or out of date
a custom, phrase, or use of language that acts as a test of belonging to, or as a stumbling block to becoming a member of, a particular social class, profession, etc

Word Origin for shibboleth

C14: from Hebrew, literally: ear of grain; the word is used in the Old Testament by the Gileadites as a test word for the Ephraimites, who could not pronounce the sound sh
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

Culture definitions for shibboleth

shibboleth

[ (shib-uh-luhth, shib-uh-leth) ]

In the Old Testament, shibboleth was a password used by the Israelites. It was chosen because their enemies could not pronounce it.

Note

By extension, a shibboleth is an often-repeated slogan. It also means an arbitrary test to prove membership in a group.
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.