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straw man

a mass of straw formed to resemble a man, as for a doll or scarecrow.
a person whose importance or function is only nominal, as to cover another's activities; front.
a fabricated or conveniently weak or innocuous person, object, matter, etc., used as a seeming adversary or argument:
The issue she railed about was no more than a straw man.
Origin of straw man
1585-95 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for straw-man
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Every boy brought a handful of nosegays and fastened them to the straw-man, who was thus enveloped in flowers.

    Balder The Beautiful, Vol. I. Sir James George Frazer
  • Sometimes a stuffed recamúchi (cacomistle, bassariscus) is used either in the place of a straw-man or in addition to it.

  • Being condemned to death, the straw-man is led through the village, shot, and burned upon a pyre.

    Balder The Beautiful, Vol. I. Sir James George Frazer
British Dictionary definitions for straw-man

straw man

noun (mainly US)
a figure of a man made from straw
another term for man of straw
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 straw-man

straw man


1590s, "doll or scarecrow made of bound straw," from straw (n.) + man (n.). Figuratively, in debates, by 1896. Man of straw "imaginary opponent" is recorded from 1620s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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straw-man in Culture

straw man definition

A made-up version of an opponent's argument that can easily be defeated. To accuse people of attacking a straw man is to suggest that they are avoiding worthier opponents and more valid criticisms of their own position: “His speech had emotional appeal, but it wasn't really convincing because he attacked a straw man rather than addressing the real issues.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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