from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A word or pronunciation that distinguishes people of one group or class from those of another.
- n. A word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a catchword.
- n. A commonplace saying or idea.
- n. A custom or practice that betrays one as an outsider.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A word, especially seen as a test, to distinguish someone as belonging to a particular nation, class, profession etc.
- n. A common or longstanding belief, custom, or catchphrase associated with a particular group, especially one with little current meaning or truth.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. A word which was made the criterion by which to distinguish the Ephraimites from the Gileadites. The Ephraimites, not being able to pronounce sh, called the word sibboleth. See Judges xii.
- n. Also used in an extended sense.
- n. Hence, the criterion, test, or watchword of a party; a party cry or pet phrase.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A Hebrew word, meaning ‘ear of corn’ or ‘stream,’ used by Jephthah, one of the judges of Israel, as a test-word by which to distinguish the fleeing Ephraimites (who could not pronounce the sh in shibboleth) from his own men, the Gileadites (Judges xii. 4–6); hence, a test-word, or the watchword or pet phrase of a party, sect, or school.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. a favorite saying of a sect or political group
- n. a manner of speaking that is distinctive of a particular group of people
Ultimately from Hebrew šibbōlet, torrent of water, from the use of this word to distinguish one tribe from another that pronounced it sibbōlet (Judges 12:4-6).(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Hebrew שבולת (šibbōlet, "ear of wheat"), with reference to Judges 12:5-6: ‘Gilead then cut Ephraim off from the fords of the Jordan, and whenever Ephraimite fugitives said, “Let me cross,” the men of Gilead would ask, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” they then said, “Very well, say Shibboleth.” If anyone said “Sibboleth”, but could not pronounce it, they would then seize him and kill him by the fords of the Jordan.’ (New Jerusalem Bible) (Wiktionary)