A sacrificial lamb
is a lamb
(or metaphorical parallel) killed or discounted in some way (as in a sacrifice
) in order to further some other cause. In typical modern usage, it is a metaphorical reference for a person who has no chance of surviving the challenge ahead, but is placed there for the common good. The term is derived from the traditions of Abrahamic religion
where a lamb is a highly valued possession, but is offered to God
as a sacrifice to obtain the more highly valued favour of God.
, a sacrificial lamb candidate is a candidate chosen to contest an election
despite the fact that he or she has little chance of victory. The political party
thus appoints the person as a sort of "sacrifice" to the stronger opponent.
In some cases fielding a sacrificial lamb candidate can serve as an opportunity for the party to be more creative in choosing a candidate than would normally be considered acceptable in a closely contested race. For example, they may choose a racial or ethnic minority or a person who would otherwise be considered "too risky" in normal circumstances. For instance, Alan Keyes or Geraldine A. Ferraro. In 2004 Howard Mills was considered a sacrificial lamb candidate for the U.S. Senate from New York against Chuck Schumer.
In the arts
, the term sacrificial lamb
refers to a supporting character
whose sole dramatic purpose is to die, thus galvanizing the protagonist to action and simultaneously demonstrating how evil the villain
is. Very often, the sacrificial lamb is a family member, partner, or "old buddy" of the protagonist, with whom he or she has an assumed intimacy, thus requiring no real character development. The term is almost always used critically, with the implication that the character was used transparently as a plot device
An example of this in early literature is Macaria in Heracleidae by Euripides.
- Agnus Dei
- Cannon fodder, an expression used to denote the treatment of armed forces as a worthless commodity to be expended
- Forlorn hope, the initial wave of troops attacking a fortress or other strongpoint, who usually took horrendous casualties.
- Lamb of God, a direct reference to Jesus Christ who, in death, is traditionally considered to have played the role of a sacrificial lamb
- Redshirt (character), a stock character in science fiction whose sole purpose is to die violently soon after being introduced
- Korban Pesach, also known as the "Paschal Lamb"