I am looking for an idiom for a creature/person we choose to sacrifice in a tough situation. We choose that creature/person because we have to choose one, and that creature will cause the least trouble for us (defenseless maybe). The others might cause noise, hassle, ... etc.

In an example, let us say you are an employer, you want to lay off one employee. You choose the one who will cause less disruption. What can I call that employee? Scapegoat came to my mind. But, to me, scapegoat is a person who is blamed for other's mistake. Here, I am referring to no mistakes. It is just harsh circumstances, and you decide to sacrifice that person. I can only relate to evolution theory when a mother kills the weakest baby to survive a harsh winter, knowing the food will be scarce.


Think about a pawn... One can sacrifice a pawn on the chessboard and facing a dilemma you have described... I think this word expresses the idea in question.

  • I think you are correct in the corporate sense, a low-status subordinate could well be a pawn as you say. In the desperate family situation, though, we would be more likely to speak, callously, of disposing of the runt as in the runt of the litter although runt does not in itself carry the connotation of "the one to be sacrificed", just "the weakest member". I'm not sure that we have a word or phrase for the OP's concept.
    – BoldBen
    Feb 12 '18 at 10:16

I would go for either 'runt of the group', and ensure the sacrificial element is clear in your context, or for 'the weakest link', as that has a stronger association with weakness leading to removal from the group.

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