Shibboleth – from the Bible, via Milton (“Without Reprieve adjudg’d to death, For want of well pronouncing Shibboleth.“) and Byron (“Nay, it is their brotherhood, Their Shibboleth–their Koran–Talmud–their
Cabala–their best brick-work, wherewithal They build more—“, “Juan, who did not understand a word Of English, save their shibboleth, ‘God damn!’ And even that he had so rarely heard, He sometimes thought ‘t was only their ‘Salam,’ Or ‘God be with you!
‘”), to James, Stevens, Whitman, Wells, Gosse, Lawrence, Cawein…

The Coverdale Bible 1535

Now whā one of ye fugityue Ephraites dyd saye: Let me go ouer, ye men of Gilead sayde: Art thou an Ephraite? yf he answered: No, they bad him saye: Schiboleth, & he sayde: Siboleth, & coulde not speake it righte: then they toke him, & slew him at ye ferye of Iordane,


The Great Bible 1539 and The Douay–Rheims Bible 1610

And whē those Ephraitꝭ that were escaped, sayde: Let vs go ouer, then the men of Gilead sayd vnto them: Arte thou all Ephraite? they sayd: nay. Then sayd they vn to him: then saye: Schibboleth ❀ (vvhich is by interpretacyon, an eare of corne.) And he sayde: Sibboleth: for he coulde not so pronounce. And then they toke hym, & slew hym, at the passages of Iordane.


And when there had come to the same one of the number of Ephraim, fleeing and had said: I besech you let me passe: The Galaadites said to him: Art thou not an Ephraite? Who saying: I am not: † they asked him: Say then Schibboleth, which is interpreted an Eare of corne. Who answered, Sibboleth, not being able by the same letter to expresse, an eare of corne. And immediatly being apprehended they killed him in the very passage of


The Geneva Bible 1557

and when the Ephraimites that were escaped, sayde, Let me passe, then the men of Gileád said vnto him, Arte thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay, 6 Then said they vnto him, Say now Shibbôleth: and he said, Sibbôleth: for he colde not so pronounce: then they toke him, & slewe him at the passages of Iordén


The King James 1611

Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan:


From the OED:

1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) Judges xii. 6   Thei askiden hym, Seye thanne Sebolech [1535 Coverdale Schiboleth, 1611 Shibboleth],..the which answerde, Shebolech [a1425 L.V. Thebolech, 1535 Siboleth, 1611 Sibboleth].

“shibboleth, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2021. Web. 14 July 2021.


The Catholic Church, for Waymarsh—that was to say the enemy, the monster of bulging eyes and far-reaching quivering groping tentacles—was exactly society, exactly the multiplication of shibboleths, exactly the discrimination of types and tones, exactly the wicked old Rows of Chester, rank with feudalism; exactly in short Europe.



I was trained to dress in a certain way, to behave in a certain way, to think in a certain way; I see now it’s all wrong and narrow–most of it anyhow–a system of class shibboleths. We were decent to each other in order to be a gang to the rest of the world. Gentlemen indeed!


From the very outset he found himself entangled in that longstanding controversy upon the educational value of Latin and Greek. His circumstances and his disposition alike disposed him to be sceptical of the value of these shibboleths of the British academic world. Their share in the time-table was enormous. Excellent gentlemen who failed to impress him as either strong-minded or exact, sought to convince him of the pricelessness of Latin in strengthening and disciplining the mind; Hinks of Carchester, the distinguished Greek scholar, slipped into his hand at parting a pamphlet asserting that only Greek studies would make a man write English beautifully and precisely. Unhappily for his argument Hinks had written his pamphlet neither beautifully nor precisely.



Richard loved the look of Australia, that marvellous soft flower-blue of the air, and the sombre grey of the earth, the foliage, the brown of the low rocks: like the dull pelts of kangaroos. It had a wonder and a far-awayness, even here in the heart of Sydney. All the shibboleths of mankind are so trumpery. Australia is outside everything.



Cool-throated flowers that avoid the day’s
Too fervid kisses; every bud that drinks
The tipsy dew and to the starlight plays
Nocturnes of fragrance, thy wing’d shadow links
In bonds of secret brotherhood and faith;
O bearer of their order’s shibboleth,
Like some pale symbol fluttering o’er these pinks.