fig·​ure·​head | \ ˈfi-g(y)ər-ˌhed How to pronounce figurehead (audio) \

Definition of figurehead

1 : the figure on a ship's bow
2 : a head or chief in name only

Examples of figurehead in a Sentence

The king is merely a figurehead; the government is really run by elected officials.

Recent Examples on the Web

Yet at sometimes raucous events elsewhere in the huge convention center and at nearby hotels, party activists cheered as figureheads of the anti-EU wing exhorted Mrs. May to change course. Max Colchester, WSJ, "U.K. Conservative Party Reveals Its Deep Divides," 1 Oct. 2018 Heloise takes a stand against the order and brings destruction to her home, and in the next installment, becomes the figurehead of a growing movement to oppose and topple the Order. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Our favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2018," 21 Dec. 2018 And not necessarily the sort of Chief Digital Officer or some figurehead who goes around from place to place. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Why building a business that’s dependent on Facebook is ‘crazy’," 16 Aug. 2018 Since then, the Bundys have regularly clashed with the government both inside and outside the courtroom, making them figureheads of the anti-Washington energy that also propelled Trump to the White House. Kyle Swenson, The Seattle Times, "Ammon Bundy breaks with Trump on anti-migrant rhetoric: ‘It’s all fear-based’," 28 Nov. 2018 The next group accused of witchcraft were often widows or other single women, particularly those outside the power of a patriarchal figurehead. Aimee Lutkin, Marie Claire, "Charmed, Sabrina, and the Return of the Dark Witch," 6 Sep. 2018 Yet there is way more to Timberland than one boot style, and in appointing Raeburn, the company has found a creative figurehead as multifaceted as itself. Luke Leitch, Vogue, "Timberland’s First-Ever Creative Director, Christopher Raeburn, Talks," 25 Oct. 2018 That’s part of his aesthetic as a leader (to fans) and a figurehead (to investors). Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "Elon Musk can’t stop tweeting, but so far it doesn’t matter," 19 July 2018 In fact, despite his sudden popularity in 2015, Sanders has never been a figurehead to everyone in the American left. Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Bernie Sanders Is Not the Left," 26 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'figurehead.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of figurehead

1765, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of figurehead was in 1765

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English Language Learners Definition of figurehead

: a carved figure (as of a woman) on a ship's bow
: a person who is called the head or chief of something but who has no real power


fig·​ure·​head | \ ˈfi-gyər-ˌhed How to pronounce figurehead (audio) \

Kids Definition of figurehead

1 : a carved figure on the bow of a ship
2 : a person who is called the head of something but who has no real power

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More from Merriam-Webster on figurehead

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with figurehead

Spanish Central: Translation of figurehead

Nglish: Translation of figurehead for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of figurehead for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about figurehead

Comments on figurehead

What made you want to look up figurehead? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something valued as if it were money

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