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A person or thing that is blamed for problems, often those caused by someone or something else. Bobby got tired of being the whipping boy for the mischief caused by his older brothers. Video games have become the whipping boy for the violent behavior displayed by today's youth.
Fig. someone who is punished for someone else's misdeeds. The president has turned out to be the whipping boy for his party.
A scapegoat, as in This department's always been the whipping boy when things don't go well. This expression alludes to the former practice of keeping a boy to be whipped in place of a prince who was to be punished. [Early 1900s]
a whipping boy
If someone is a whipping boy, people blame them when things go wrong. `There won't be a white paper,' one minister said yesterday. `It wouldn't solve anything. It would just make the prime minister a whipping boy for both the left and right.' This is the story of how America's favorite whipping boy became her favorite son. Note: A whipping boy was a boy who was educated with a prince and was punished for the prince's mistakes because tutors were not allowed to hit the prince.
a ˈwhipping boya person who is blamed or punished for the mistakes of another person: The directors are clearly responsible for what happened, but they’re sure to find a whipping boy lower down the company. ♢ It was your fault, and I am not going to be your whipping boy.In the past when a royal prince made a mistake in his lessons, another boy was whipped (= punished) for his mistakes.
whipping boy, a
A scapegoat; one who receives the blame and/or punishment for another’s mistakes or misdeeds. The term comes from the early practice of keeping a boy to be whipped in place of a prince who was to be punished. Sir William Petrie used the term figuratively in Ancient Egypt (1914): “With some writers . . . Manetho is the whipping-boy, who must always be flogged when anything is not understood.”
See also: whipping