Someone punished for the errors of others; SYN. whipping boy.
In the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 16), a goat loaded with the sins of the people and then sent out into the wilderness as a way of removing those sins. The goat was sent to Azazel, who is variously understood to be a demon of the desert and of disorder. In contemporary language, a scapegoat is someone, usually relatively minor, who is caught up in a scandal and then dismissed or prosecuted while those higher up who were also involved are left untouched.