Definition of figurehead in English:



  • 1A carving, typically a bust or a full-length figure, set at the prow of an old-fashioned sailing ship.

    • ‘She is truly formidable (in the French sense of the word), rather like one of those fantastic figureheads on a tall ship.’
    • ‘In the merchant marine figureheads portraying the skip's owner or builder and their wives, daughters, or sweethearts were popular.’
    • ‘The figureheads, harking back to the days of sail, stand up to 1.5 metres (five feet) tall and have been suggested by Trafalgar 200 organisers to stimulate interest in all things nautical at an early age.’
    • ‘Humphreys turned to Rush for preliminary designs for all the figureheads and stern carvings, and for a list of carvers who could accomplish the work in a timely fashion.’
    • ‘As she arrived at the bow, her eyes were drawn upwards along the prow, to where an ancient figurehead stood watch.’
    • ‘Although the public saw the usual hands at the wheel of the ship of state, they were as decorative as the figureheads on the bows of old sailing ships.’
    • ‘There are numerous maritime antiques, pictures and figureheads as well as ship models to be found throughout.’
    • ‘Built with the best materials, to the highest standard, her clipper ship bow and figurehead are still intact.’
    • ‘She reached the anchored ship and recognized the figurehead upon its prow.’
    • ‘Galleries showcase an international collection of ship models, figureheads, small craft, paintings, and antique navigation instruments.’
    • ‘For instance, the figurehead was changed to an allegorical figure that evoked the ship's new name.’
    • ‘Some boats are shown with cabins, prows and figureheads and some carry animals.’
    • ‘Included are live demonstrations by a museum carver on how sailors depicted women on figureheads which, when placed on the bow of a ship, served to ward off harm at sea.’
    • ‘Whilst it is fairly certain that they did indeed have figureheads on their ships, only a small elite would have carried them, and they would have all been warships of some description.’
    • ‘In America during the colonial era there had been many wood carvers creating ship's figureheads and church furnishings.’
    • ‘The ship was monstrous, and her figurehead suited her perfectly.’
    • ‘There were handsome ships anchored in the harbor, many-sailed with delicately carved figureheads.’
    • ‘Because figureheads were intended to lead the ship onward in a rush of motion, neoclassical figures, in the final analysis, were not compatible.’
    • ‘Examples of women as ornamentation can be traced back to the use of female figureheads on the prows of ships.’
    • ‘The incomers were principally craftsmen, carving ships' figureheads and occasional portrait busts.’
    carving, bust, sculpture, image, statue
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  • 2A nominal leader or head without real power.

    • ‘He represented the leaders who were just figureheads or ruled because of their wealth, prosperity, and connections with other influential people, which was how they were in power.’
    • ‘The highest official is the prime minister, and the president is a figurehead with no real power.’
    • ‘He was the first of a line of hereditary prime ministers who, although they kept the monarch as a ceremonial figurehead, ruled the country themselves for more than a century.’
    • ‘We don't want bosses, figureheads or exalted leaders.’
    • ‘First, keep in mind that news anchors, like other constitutional monarchs, are primarily figureheads.’
    • ‘It is essential that diversity leaders be more than figureheads if they are to provide transformative leadership to their campuses.’
    • ‘He says that powerful conservative interests want him punished because he's a figurehead for defiance of authority.’
    • ‘In the past, the defense minister was only a figurehead without any authority over the chief of the general staff.’
    • ‘Then, we had great leaders, great figureheads running clubs, but they didn't have to keep putting their hands in their pockets to bail their teams out.’
    • ‘Clan chiefs are now largely figureheads who can choose the level of involvement they have with a clan society and defer duties and titles to others.’
    • ‘The alternative is to look upon the monarch as a mere figurehead, a focal point for tradition, pomp and ritual on the great occasions of state.’
    • ‘The national sports council has long suffered from this problem as its head is looked upon as more of a figurehead than a leader well-versed and interested in sports.’
    • ‘This would be a strong answer to the Queen as sovereign figurehead, but could also result in a political president.’
    • ‘If we are to have a figurehead as the leader of the nation, let it be the people's choice via the ballot box and not someone's birthright.’
    • ‘By 2011, the world was basically under the control of these five men, country leaders basically being political figureheads.’
    • ‘But who can be sure that having your political figurehead at the 45-minute presentation is a vote-winner?’
    • ‘The political leadership will become a figurehead at best and anarchy will rule.’
    • ‘If the argument is that the sovereign is largely a figurehead with little real possibility of doing harm, then let's pick one of our own.’
    • ‘He is a figurehead, the hard-drinking leader who gives the gang what they want in exchange for loyalty and service.’
    • ‘Very few institutions change their chief figurehead every year.’
    titular head, nominal leader, leader in name only, frontman, cipher, token, mouthpiece, puppet, instrument, man of straw
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