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 Johnson is a strange figurehead for such a movement. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 7 June 2021 Olson has since emerged as a figurehead of the sport and is known within the community for his environmentally conscious worldview and predilection for daily meditation. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 June 2021 The alliance, which Mitsubishi also joined, was at one time the world’s second largest automaker by volume with Ghosn as its flamboyant figurehead. Peter Lyon, Forbes, 30 May 2021 Biden is neither a figurehead of American politics, nor a ceremonial placeholder for when President Joe Biden can't be there himself. Kate Bennett, CNN, 29 Apr. 2021 The queen, 94, is seen by many as a stabilizing figurehead, defined by her quiet custodianship of the institution through controversies and crises. NBC News, 9 Apr. 2021 That person runs the county meetings and is the figurehead, although the county administrator handles the day-to-day operations and manages department heads. Lisa J. Huriash,, 19 May 2021 At a moment when the American republic is deeply divided, the family that faithfully serves Britain's democracy as the figurehead of state has an enduring appeal. Philip Terzian, Washington Examiner, 15 Apr. 2021 Trump is famously protective of his name brand, but having the symbolic figurehead of the GOP undermine party efforts puts his fellow Republicans in a difficult spot. Time, 12 Mar. 2021

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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Statistics for figurehead

Last Updated

9 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Figurehead.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.

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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 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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