bellwether

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Definition

noun
: one that takes the lead or initiative : leader; also : an indicator of trends.

Examples
1. The company has long been viewed as a bellwether for the tech market, so analysts are watching it closely.
2. “Plus, on an increasingly divided council, and in a new district elections system inviting wholesale change, Godden’s race could be a bellwether for how incumbents are faring this election year.” — Heidi Groover, The Stranger, May 13, 2015.

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 13th century.

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