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

But, on the cusp of power, the Labour leader would almost certainly reject calls to stand aside for a more moderate figurehead. Rob Picheta, CNN, "Boris Johnson had a torrid week. Now he's fighting to take back control," 8 Sep. 2019 Unlike past protests, like the Umbrella Movement, today’s protests don’t have centralized leaders or figureheads. Joshua Wong, Quartz, "How to fight for democracy when the government keeps throwing you in jail," 3 Sep. 2019 The protests are also providing the opposition with new figureheads. The Economist, "Protests in Moscow show that Putin’s critics are getting stronger," 15 Aug. 2019 Aficionados of California water mythology will recognize this formulation as a farmers’ credo retailed by, among others, Fox News figurehead Sean Hannity and President Trump. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Right-wingers again demonize the tiny delta smelt to protect Big Agriculture," 12 Aug. 2019 United could, however, opt to make Pepe the figurehead of their squad overhaul, with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial strongly linked with moves away from Old Trafford this summer., "Report: Inter Milan Bids £80M for Lille Star Nicolas Pepe," 24 June 2019 It’s time for the official bear of fire prevention to move beyond being a figurehead and get his paws dirty. Sarah Berns, Outside Online, "Why Smokey Bear Desperately Needs a Makeover," 24 Aug. 2019 The official head of state might sometimes be no more than a figurehead, while someone else holds the actual power. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, "150 years of data proves it: Strongmen are bad for the economy," 19 Aug. 2019 The Swedish 16-year-old has become the figurehead of a burgeoning movement of youth climate activists after her weekly protests inspired student strikes in more than 100 cities worldwide. CNN, "Greta Thunberg will sail across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions yacht for the UN climate summit," 29 July 2019

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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Statistics for figurehead

Last Updated

11 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for figurehead

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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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