Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One that serves as a leader or as a leading indicator of future trends: "The degree to which the paper is censored is a political bellwether” ( Justine De Lacy).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The leading sheep of a flock, having a bell hung round its neck.
  • n. Anything that indicates future trends.
  • n. A stock or bond that is widely believed to be an indicator of the overall market's condition.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A wether, or sheep, which leads the flock, with a bell on his neck.
  • n. Hence: A leader.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A wether or sheep which leads the flock, usually carrying a bell on its neck.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. sheep that leads the herd often wearing a bell
  • n. someone who assumes leadership of a movement or activity

Etymologies

Middle English bellewether, wether with a bell hung from its neck, leader of the flock : belle, bell; see bell1 + wether, wether; see wether.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English belwether, belleweder ("a sheep with a bell around its neck to lead a flock"), equivalent to bell +‎ wether. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In their books second chapter, What We Can Learn About Service from Scandinavia, Albrecht and Zemke turned to Sweden, which they referred to as a bellwether country because of a business approach developed there called service management.

    Your Call Is (Not That) Important to Us

  • If you watched ABC news wednesday evening, they showed my county, Bucks County, which they characterized as a bellwether county.

    Printing: Bush and Joe, the turncoat, LIeberman

  • Perhaps Joe and I should be flattered -- after all, one definition of "bellwether" is "a person or thing that takes the lead" (that's from Random House).

    Candidate Campbell's coyness causes questions..

  • * And Dems are on defense in bellwether state of Ohio: GOP candidates are aggressively challenging at least six House Dem incumbents -- and are leading in a Senate race by double digits -- in a state that's generally seen as the nation's leading battleground.

    The Morning Plum

  • You can follow the ins and outs of the EU-Turkish accession negotiations for all you are worth but, as we have remarked several times on this blog, the real bellwether is the military.

    Lightning II strikes

  • Cambridge: but the monosyllable represented to an Attic ear the bleating of sheep, and a bellwether is better evidence than a bishop or a chancellor.

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

  • US Energy Efficiency projects - popular in Voluntary Carbon markets New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme - Crossover Transport Software Solutions for Electric Cars RGGI-Analysis of the first US Auction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions FedEx is sometimes referred to as a bellwether for the U.S. economy.

    Cleantech Blog

  • The first of 175 consolidated California cases went to trial last summer, a suit the judge called a "bellwether."

    All-Terrain Victories

  • Virginia likes to be known as the bellwether of how elections will go in the rest of the United States, and perhaps no race fits that category more than the one Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher is fighting.

    This year's Florida? It's Rick Boucher in Virginia

  • Credit Suisse analyst Kun Lung Wu Monday said the risk of recession in Asian bellwether Singapore has "increased significantly."

    Asian Markets Reel After U.S. Downgrade

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Comments

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  • A contemptuous term for a ring-leader whose lead is followed in an unquestioning, sheep-lie fashion. ---Foyle's Philavery

    March 5, 2009

  • "And by that way wend the herds innumerable of bellwethers and flushed ewes and shearling rams and lambs and ..."
    Joyce, Ulysses, 12

    January 13, 2007