[ fig-yer-hed ]
/ ˈfɪg yərˌhɛd /


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.
Nautical. a carved full-length figure or bust built into the bow of a sailing ship.

Nearby words

  1. figure-ground phenomenon,
  2. figured,
  3. figured bass,
  4. figured glass,
  5. figuredly,
  6. figurine,
  7. figwort,
  8. figwort family,
  9. fiji,
  10. fiji islands

Origin of figurehead

First recorded in 1755–65; figure + head Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for figurehead

British Dictionary definitions for figurehead


/ (ˈfɪɡəˌhɛd) /


a person nominally having a prominent position, but no real authority
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

Word Origin and History for figurehead



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