Word of the day – Bellwether

Word of the Day : June 15, 2020


noun BEL-WEH-ther


  • : one that takes the lead or initiative : leaderalso : an indicator of trends

Did you know?

We usually think of sheep more as followers than leaders, but in a flock one sheep must lead the way. Long ago, it was common practice for shepherds to hang a bell around the neck of one sheep in their flock, thereby designating it the lead sheep. This animal was called the bellwether, a word formed by a combination of the Middle English words belle (meaning “bell”) and wether (a noun that refers to a male sheep that has been castrated). It eventually followed that bellwether would come to refer to someone who takes initiative or who actively establishes a trend that is taken up by others. This usage first appeared in English in the 15th century.


“The tech giant has long been a bellwether for global industry, and investors will now hope that is still the case. Apple said on Thursday that its revenue rose nearly 1 percent to $58.3 billion in the first three months of the year….” — Jack Nicas, The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2020

“That transition to natural gas as the bellwether of the state’s energy portfolio has decreased emissions in the state nearly 90% since 1990 as natural gas production grew eleven-fold from 2010 to 2018.” — Mike Butler, The Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 4 May 2020