What does the term “sacred cow” mean and Where does the phrase Holy Cow come from?

The term “sacred cow” means: Any personal possessions cherished by its owner, or a person held in such high esteem or of such high office as to be above criticism or attack, someone on a pedestal.

This twentieth-century term could have been derived from the cow, held to be sacred in India even at the present time, from the legendary hero, Prithu who assumed the form of a cow in order to encourage his subjects to raise edible vegetables.

Or it could have been taken from Greek legend, the story of Io who was transformed into a heifer because Zeus had become too amorous.

Or it could have had reference to the Egyptian Hathor, goddess of love, who, in the form of a cow, was served by princesses.

Perhaps, even, it is somehow connected with the exclamation “Holy cow!” made familiar in the 1940’s to thousands of American radio listeners as the pet oath of “Oogie,” boy friend of Corliss Archer.

Most probably, however, the connection is with the sacred cow of India.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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