from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A verse in some “Latin book in Gothic black letter” (usually Ps. li. 1), formerly set by the ordinary of a prison before a malefactor claiming benefit of clergy, in order to test his ability to read. If the ordinary or his deputy said “legit ut clericus” (he reads like a clerk or scholar), the malefactor was burned in the hand and set free, thus saving his neck.
- n. Hence A verse or phrase on the pronunciation of which one's fate depends; a shibboleth.
Sorry, no etymologies found.