Definition of figurehead in US English:

figurehead

noun

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

    • ‘Because figureheads were intended to lead the ship onward in a rush of motion, neoclassical figures, in the final analysis, were not compatible.’
    • ‘The ship was monstrous, and her figurehead suited her perfectly.’
    • ‘She is truly formidable (in the French sense of the word), rather like one of those fantastic figureheads on a tall ship.’
    • ‘Built with the best materials, to the highest standard, her clipper ship bow and figurehead are still intact.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The incomers were principally craftsmen, carving ships' figureheads and occasional portrait busts.’
    • ‘She reached the anchored ship and recognized the figurehead upon its prow.’
    • ‘In the merchant marine figureheads portraying the skip's owner or builder and their wives, daughters, or sweethearts were popular.’
    • ‘In America during the colonial era there had been many wood carvers creating ship's figureheads and church furnishings.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Examples of women as ornamentation can be traced back to the use of female figureheads on the prows of ships.’
    • ‘As she arrived at the bow, her eyes were drawn upwards along the prow, to where an ancient figurehead stood watch.’
    • ‘Some boats are shown with cabins, prows and figureheads and some carry animals.’
    • ‘There are numerous maritime antiques, pictures and figureheads as well as ship models to be found throughout.’
    • ‘There were handsome ships anchored in the harbor, many-sailed with delicately carved figureheads.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    carving, bust, sculpture, image, statue
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  • 2A nominal leader or head without real power.

    • ‘He is a figurehead, the hard-drinking leader who gives the gang what they want in exchange for loyalty and service.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The political leadership will become a figurehead at best and anarchy will rule.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He says that powerful conservative interests want him punished because he's a figurehead for defiance of authority.’
    • ‘First, keep in mind that news anchors, like other constitutional monarchs, are primarily figureheads.’
    • ‘Very few institutions change their chief figurehead every year.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But who can be sure that having your political figurehead at the 45-minute presentation is a vote-winner?’
    • ‘In the past, the defense minister was only a figurehead without any authority over the chief of the general staff.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is essential that diversity leaders be more than figureheads if they are to provide transformative leadership to their campuses.’
    • ‘The highest official is the prime minister, and the president is a figurehead with no real power.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘By 2011, the world was basically under the control of these five men, country leaders basically being political figureheads.’
    • ‘This would be a strong answer to the Queen as sovereign figurehead, but could also result in a political president.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We don't want bosses, figureheads or exalted leaders.’
    titular head, nominal leader, leader in name only, frontman, cipher, token, mouthpiece, puppet, instrument, man of straw
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Pronunciation

figurehead

/ˈfiɡyərˌhed//ˈfɪɡjərˌhɛd/