A figurehead is someone who appears to be in charge, but who really holds very little influence. In many countries today, kings and queens are merely figureheads.

A ceremonial president or king — one installed as a symbolic head of a country, while someone else holds the real power — is one type of figurehead. If a retiring businesswoman promotes her son to be the new CEO of her company, while putting a different person in charge of running the business, the son is just a figurehead. The word figurehead comes from its original meaning, the figures carved at the front of old sailing ships.

Definitions of figurehead
  1. noun
    a leader in name only, without real power or authority
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    type of:
    a person who rules or guides or inspires others
  2. noun
    a person used as a cover for some questionable activity
    synonyms: front, front man, nominal head, straw man, strawman
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    type of:
    beguiler, cheat, cheater, deceiver, slicker, trickster
    someone who leads you to believe something that is not true
  3. noun
    figure on the bow of some sailing vessels
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    type of:
    a model of a bodily form (especially of a person)
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘figurehead'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
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