Goat vs GOAT

The recent episode of Survivor gave me food for thought in a few different categories (including yesterday’s post about hide-and-seek vs sardines). My other pondering that emerged from this episode–and Survivor in general–is: Why do we use the terms goat and GOAT to mean nearly opposite thing?

A “goat” as it’s most often used in Survivor is someone you hope to take to the end because they’re not going to get any support from the jury. It’s kind of like a “scapegoat,” but you’re not blaming them for anything. They’re just not winner-material.

However, GOAT is also an acronym that means “greatest of all time”. It’s often used to describe athletes at the top of their game.

So…almost entirely different definitions for terms that sound exactly the same when said outloud. It seems like GOAT, as an acronym, would be more difficult to change, so why not select another animal than a goat for the other word? What’s an animal you’re happy to have with you but doesn’t attract much praise? A donkey?

4 thoughts on “Goat vs GOAT”

  1. Ok, so I like the creativity you have here, however, donkey won’t quite work. I’ve seen donkey used two different ways to refer to people, either as a jackass, or by Gordon Ramsay to call someone a moron. I want to present a better term as a gamer:

    A sheep.

    It’s a relatively unassuming animal, it’s not out there making the hero plays, and I’m certainly not trading any stone for them.

    • A sheep already has some nigh-on universal (in North American culture) meaning already though – someone who is passive, a follower, and doesn’t cause trouble or question things.

      That’s not descriptive of what people mean by goat in Survivor. Several of the most well-known goats where loud, annoying, and disruptive. They didn’t have much social pull and nobody liked them, but they were anything but sheep.

      That said, I agree with the confusion. I don’t follow competitive sports much, and so I encountered the survivor “goat” before the GOAT acronym worked its way into competitive board gaming and e-sports, and it defintiely made a few perspectives seem confusing at first.

      • That’s a good point about “sheep” being associated with a passive follower (though that’s often in line with the Survivor meaning of the word).


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