lightning rod


: a grounded metallic rod set up on a structure (such as a building) to protect it from lightning
: one that serves to divert attack from another
: 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 issuesAric Press et al.

Examples of lightning rod in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Sustaining success on defense in the NFL is extremely difficult, and the defensive coordinator quickly becomes a lightning rod when a team isn't routinely competing for championships. Journal Sentinel, 26 Jan. 2024 The President is trying to moderate Israel’s war, but the U.S. is also acting willingly as a lightning rod for criticism about the human costs of Israel’s campaign against Hamas, a role that the U.S. has long played in the alliance. Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 8 Nov. 2023 These House Democrats of color are lightning rods for bigoted attacks, including death threats. Pablo Manríquez, The New Republic, 3 Nov. 2023 The trial became a lightning rod for issues of parental responsibility, in a time of frequent cases of gun violence carried out by minors. Jacey Fortin, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2024 As a Black, gay musician simultaneously operating at the intersection between pop and rap, his general existence is a cultural lightning rod either way. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 13 Jan. 2024 Mendoza notes that while a couple of decades ago the secretive Bilderberg Group had been the focal point of conspiracy theorists, now WEF has become a lightning rod for similar ideas. Simon Constable, Fox News, 21 Jan. 2024 More on the Israel-Hamas war How Students for Justice in Palestine, a network of campus groups that is affiliated with the national wing but operates autonomously, became a national lightning rod. Elizabeth Robinson, NBC News, 24 Nov. 2023 Still a practicing Catholic despite her very public disagreements with its doctrine, especially regarding women, McDermott approaches religion on the page not as a political lightning rod but as a source of faith and integrity. Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lightning rod.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1770, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of lightning rod was in 1770

Dictionary Entries Near lightning rod

Cite this Entry

“Lightning rod.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

lightning rod

: a metal rod set up on a building or a ship and connected with the earth or water below to decrease the chances of damage from lightning

More from Merriam-Webster on lightning rod

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