Scapegoating is a word basically meaning "to throw someone or some group under the bus". So what does Scape- mean, and what is a goat doing in the word? Turns out it all stems from a mistranslation of the Bible! Scapegoat was coined in 1530 by William Tyndale, who wanted to find a translation for the part in Leviticus 16 that presumably had to do with one goat that was not sacrificed while another was. However, many ecclesial scholars today believe that the word was translated improperly, and instead of goats the Hebrew word Tyndale thought meant "goat" referred to the proper names of demons. Now we know the semantic reasoning: what about the phonetic change? Scape-, which meant "escaped", roughly, probably is a shortening of escape, which I'm saving for a later post. Goat has an glaringly obvious Germanic origin, from the Proto-Germanic term gaito and PIE ghaido, both of which also meant "goat". It's amazing how much of our lexicon comes from mistakes.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.