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

The moves made him a lightning rod for controversy. Washington Post,, "Pruitt steps down as EPA head after ethics, management scandals," 6 July 2018 The moves, coupled with Pruitt’s penchant for secrecy, made him a lightning rod for controversy. Brady Dennis, Washington Post, "Scott Pruitt steps down as EPA head after ethics, management scandals," 5 July 2018 The arrests of the men, who investigators allege plotted the girl's abduction as a means of scaring the predominately-Muslim nomads into vacating the region, has proved a lightning rod in a part of India simmering with religious tension. Steve George, CNN, "'Question your sons' says Indian PM Modi amid ongoing rape outrage," 19 Apr. 2018 In Bolton, Trump selects yet another controversial figure for a senior adviser — a lightning rod even within in his own party. NBC News, "Trump brings a Bush-era hawk back into the foreign policy fray," 23 Mar. 2018 At the same time, the Volt became a symbol of the Obama administration’s push for electric cars and a lightning rod for critics of GM’s government bailout. Mike Colias, WSJ, "GM Bids Farewell to Its Breakthrough Electric Car," 9 Dec. 2018 Voters cast 311,000 ballots in the close contest between the embattled governor and a conservative lightning rod. Frank Miles, Fox News, "Kobach holds 121-vote lead over Colyer in Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary, officials say," 9 Aug. 2018 McCabe had become a political lightning rod over the past year, with Trump and his Republican allies accusing him of leading a politically motivated investigation into Trump campaign aides and their ties to Russia. Adam Goldman And Matt Apuzzo,, "FBI’s deputy director steps down under pressure," 29 Jan. 2018 But the new agreement still faces a lengthy path to congressional approval, having been a lightning rod for criticism among labor unions and manufacturing workers. Annabelle Liang, The Seattle Times, "Asian markets fall on US-China trade worries," 1 Oct. 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

16 Feb 2019

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

Rhyming Dictionary: 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).


irregularly rounded

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


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!