fig·ure·head | \ ˈfi-g(y)ər-ˌhed \

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

The attacking midfielder is now looking ahead to the World Cup, and will be a key figurehead in Brazil's quest for a sixth title., "Philippe Coutinho Named Man of the Moment Ahead of 2018 FIFA World Cup," 6 June 2018 Those students, who have become figureheads for a national student movement on gun control, stopped to see Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News, "Congress faces old gun debate with new pressure to act," 27 Feb. 2018 Lakeith Stanfield stars as Cassius Green, a young striver who becomes the figurehead for the struggle between the American dream and human morality. Katie Walsh, kansascity, "‘Sorry to Bother You’ skewers corporate and cultural corruption," 12 July 2018 Neymar has, according to Marca, been kept away from all media duties, despite being the figurehead of the team and its most popular member, specifically to shield him from tricky questions about his antics here in Russia. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "Brazil is desperately trying to coddle Neymar, whose talent outweighs dramatic antics," 5 July 2018 By giving her name to this cause, Goldin has helped legitimize it and has become a figurehead for a group of people — those all too often dismissed as addicts — who have largely been treated as invisible. New York Times, "Nan Goldin Survived an Overdose to Fight the Opioid Epidemic," 11 June 2018 Steve Rubell, the larger-than-life figurehead, and Ian Schrager, his modest, all-business counterpart—but also the infectious energy, unbridled excess, and astronomical star power that made it The Shangri-la of New York City in the late '70s. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Happy Anniversary, Studio 54! The Iconic Nightclub's 21 Best Beauty Looks," 26 Apr. 2018 The spiritual figurehead of the team in many ways has been Southgate, a former England player whose self-effacing enthusiasm has become central to the group’s appeal. Andrew Keh, New York Times, "England Takes Another Step Toward Bringing ‘It’ Home," 8 July 2018 Becoming an unlikely figurehead of the resistance seems to be a role that suits her. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "Critic's Notebook: Kathy Griffin Comes Back With a Vengeance in 'Laugh Your Head Off' Tour," 27 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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Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for figurehead

The first known use of figurehead was in 1765

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More Definitions for figurehead



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 \

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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