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figurehead

[fig-yer-hed] /ˈfɪg yərˌhɛd/
noun
1.
a person who is head of a group, company, etc., in title but actually has no real authority or responsibility:
Most modern kings and queens are figureheads.
2.
Nautical. a carved full-length figure or bust built into the bow of a sailing ship.
Origin
1755-1765
1755-65; figure + head
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for figurehead
  • It is a figurehead office, a bully pulpit that confers little power.
  • To the ordinary seaman, the figurehead symbolized his ship.
  • However, no individual should accept the position of committee treasurer as a mere figurehead.
  • He signs all contracts and ordinances on behalf of the city and is the figurehead of city government.
  • Also contains a decorative figurehead and a wind rose.
  • The sculpture present on the bow of many large ships is called the figurehead.
  • The emperor was a figurehead who commanded no political authority, but his approval was necessary to legitimize the shogun.
  • Uncommon to the period was the fact that these ships failed to bear a figurehead, nor headboards or trailboards.
  • The director becomes an ineffective figurehead without real authority.
British Dictionary definitions for figurehead

figurehead

/ˈfɪɡəˌhɛd/
noun
1.
a person nominally having a prominent position, but no real authority
2.
a carved bust or full-length figure at the upper end of the stems of some sailing vessels
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for figurehead
n.

1765, from figure (n.) + head (n.). Originally the ornament on the bow of a ship; sense of "leader without real authority" is first attested 1883.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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