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 Duda is a figurehead for the Law and Justice political program that has put it on a collision course with the European Union. Loveday Morris,, "Polish presidential election heads to runoff, exit polls show," 28 June 2020 While partners are spread across the country, Cosgrove doesn’t believe in being an inaccessible figurehead at company headquarters. Brenda Cain, cleveland, "Explosive growth doesn’t quell the family feel at Union Home Mortgage: Top Workplaces 2nd place winner," 28 June 2020 But fierce confrontation, campaigning, and figurehead-toppling has happened online, too. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "It’s Not Callout Culture. It’s Accountability.," 16 June 2020 In the last year, McDonald’s has also been called out by multiple political figureheads, including Sens. Asia Ewart,, "McDonald’s Workers File $500 Million USD Sexual Harassment Lawsuit," 14 Apr. 2020 An interesting analogy to the North Pacific rights’ place in species-protection efforts are North Atlantic rights, which have become a celebrated figurehead of marine-mammal conservation. Heather Hansman, Outside Online, "Searching for the World's Most Endangered Whale," 27 Apr. 2020 After moving back to the U.S. in April 1939, Lindbergh became a key figurehead of the America First movement. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "The True History Behind ‘The Plot Against America’," 16 Mar. 2020 Another student alleged this unauthorized running with the bull violated the election code’s ban on using likenesses of university figureheads, administrators or celebrities in campaign materials without written consent. Peter Loftus, WSJ, "College Election Crackdown: No Glitter, No iPads, No Mascot Photos," 26 Apr. 2018 All that most people need from their figureheads, clownish and otherwise, is the level of concern that ICP imparts on the first song of its quarantine playlist. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Insane Clown Posse Is Modeling Ideal Pandemic Leadership," 27 Apr. 2020

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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Time Traveler for figurehead

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The first known use of figurehead was in 1765

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Last Updated

2 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Figurehead.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for figurehead


How to pronounce figurehead (audio)

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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