lightning rod


Definition of lightning rod 

1 : a grounded metallic rod set up on a structure (such as a building) to protect it from lightning

2 : one that serves to divert attack from another

3 : one that is a frequent target of criticism or focus of controversy she has become a convenient lightning rod for voters' discontent with law-and-order issues —Aric Press et al.

Examples of lightning rod in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

As for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, his open and unabashed acceptance of the support of President Donald Trump could prove to be a lightning rod of sorts for him. Carol Cain, Detroit Free Press, "It's not a normal election year in Michigan — again," 16 June 2018 The Kochs’ activism and campaign spending have long made them a political lightning rod. Julie Bykowicz, WSJ, "David Koch Steps Down From Company, Political Groups," 5 June 2018 More: Monsanto shedding name: Bayer acquisition leads to change for environmental lightning rodThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has gone back and forth on considering glyphosate a possible carcinogen. Ashley May, USA TODAY, "Lawsuits alleging weed killer Roundup caused cancer given green light by San Francisco judge," 11 July 2018 Indeed, as much of a lightning rod as James has been at various points in his career, what critic in his or her right mind could find fault in his latest reputational climb up that mythical Mt. St. Michael? Harvey Araton, New York Times, "With Sheer Will, LeBron James Leads the Cavaliers Back to the Finals," 27 May 2018 But rather than quell tensions, the swift police action has had the opposite effect, transforming the case into a lightning rod for radical sectarian anger. Steve George, CNN, "Murder and rape of 8-year-old inflames religious tensions in northern India," 13 Apr. 2018 Facial-recognition technology has been a lightning rod for criticism. Jay Greene, WSJ, "Microsoft Calls on Government to Regulate Facial-Recognition Technology," 13 July 2018 But Brolin loves the fan furor on the internet over his lightning rod characters, especially Thanos. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "'Sicario' star Josh Brolin is smiling over his killer summer, even with superhero deaths," 26 June 2018 Semenya has long been a lightning rod for complaints on this issue, facing gender tests as opponents questioned her winning times. David Wharton,, "Track federation vows to fight for new rule barring female athletes with naturally high testosterone," 19 June 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of lightning rod

1773, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about lightning rod

Share lightning rod

Statistics for lightning rod

Last Updated

14 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lightning rod

The first known use of lightning rod was in 1773

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for lightning rod

lightning rod


English Language Learners Definition of lightning rod

: a metal rod that is placed on a building and connected with the ground below to protect the building from being damaged by lightning

: someone or something that attracts criticism or gets blamed when things go wrong

More from Merriam-Webster on lightning rod

See words that rhyme with lightning rod Encyclopedia article about lightning rod

Comments on lightning rod

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


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!