A shibboleth is like a motto or catchphrase that members of a group tend to say, like the conservative shibboleth that the only good government is a small government.

Shibboleth is a Hebrew word that means "ear of corn" or "flood." In a Biblical story, the word was used as a password — a means to figure out who was part of your group and who wasn't. It still has that sense of identifying someone as a member of a group. Sometimes it also means "platitude" or "truism," a phrase that is so common everyone thinks it's true, like "crime doesn't pay," or "better late than never."

Definitions of shibboleth

n a favorite saying of a sect or political group

catchword, motto, slogan
catch phrase, catchphrase
a phrase that has become a catchword
a commonly repeated word or phrase
battle cry, cry, rallying cry, war cry, watchword
a slogan used to rally support for a cause
Type of:
expression, locution, saying
a word or phrase that particular people use in particular situations

n a manner of speaking that is distinctive of a particular group of people

Type of:
delivery, manner of speaking, speech
your characteristic style or manner of expressing yourself orally

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.