• WordNet 3.6
    • n figurehead figure on the bow of some sailing vessels
    • n figurehead a person used as a cover for some questionable activity
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: The dragons and other monsters that graced the bows of the Viking ships were so fierce-looking that a law was passed in Iceland ordering the skipper of any Viking ship to remove the figurehead before entering port.
    • Figurehead A person who allows his name to be used to give standing to enterprises in which he has no responsible interest or duties; a nominal, but not real, head or chief.
    • Figurehead (Naut) The figure, statue, or bust, on the prow of a ship.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n figurehead An ornamental figure, as a statue or bust, on the projecting part of the head of a ship, over the cutwater and immediately under the bowsprit. If the vessel's name is that of a person, object, etc., which can be represented directly or emblematically by a figure, such a figure is usually placed at the head of the vessel; thus, the Columbus would have a bust or statue of Columbus for a figurehead, the Lion would have the figure of a lion, the Britannia a statue or bust of the conventional Britannia. When no figure is used, the head is often finished off as a scroll-head or a fiddle-head (see these terms), which are not strictly figureheads.
    • n figurehead Figuratively, a person put forward to represent or to appear to act for others, without having any real authority or responsibility.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • Figurehead the figure or bust under the bowsprit of a ship
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  • Ambrose Bierce
    “Admiral. That part of a warship which does the talking while the figurehead does the thinking.”
  • J. G. Ballard
    “I thought it was a wonderfully conceptual act actually, to fire a replica pistol at a figurehead -- the guy could have been working for Andy Warhol!”


Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
Fr.,—L. figura, fingĕre, to form.


In literature:

If I am to be nothing but a figurehead, why, I'd rather get out.
"Dave Porter and His Rivals" by Edward Stratemeyer
He was replaced by a fat and rather harmless dug-out captain, who proved to be only a pompous figurehead.
"'Brother Bosch', an Airman's Escape from Germany" by Gerald Featherstone Knight
This gives an air of unreality, a figurehead and type character.
"A History of English Literature" by George Saintsbury
A bit of parchment found in the figurehead of an old vessel tells of a buried treasure.
"The Free Range" by Francis William Sullivan
I saw the most wonderful figureheads, that had all been far over the ocean.
"Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson
Up to the time of her visit to London, Lord Farquhart had been to her something of a figurehead.
"Ainslee's, Vol. 15, No. 6, July 1905" by Various
Dickie Lang was poised in the bow like a figurehead, one foot resting on the rail.
"El Diablo" by Brayton Norton
The two figureheads, friends of Richards, came next, and last of all Chester.
"A Breath of Prairie and other stories" by Will Lillibridge
I saw the most wonderful figureheads, that had all been far over the ocean.
"The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson" by Robert Louis Stevenson
He'll be nothing but a figurehead.
"The Campfire Girls on Ellen's Isle" by Hildegard G. Frey

In poetry:

Flagged, and the figurehead wit golden tits
Arching our way, it never anchors; it's
No sooner present than it turns to past.
Right to the last
"Next, Please" by Philip Larkin
It's not a good example to the people where we trade
To see upon our vessels' bows such things as those displayed;
So let her name be Enterprise or Thrift or Industry,
And I think we can't do better than a figurehead of ME."
"The Figurehead" by Cicely Fox Smith
They named her Perseverance, and they sent her out to sea
To show the folks in foreign parts a figurehead of HE,
With a go-to-meeting topper of the real stove-pipe sort
And the kind of stick-up collar Mr. Gladstone used to sport.
"The Figurehead" by Cicely Fox Smith
Oh gallant was our galley from her caren steering-wheel
To her figurehead of silver and her beak of hammered steel;
The leg-bar chafed the ankle and we gasped for cooler air,
But no galley on the waters with our galley could compare!
"The Galley-Slave" by Rudyard Kipling
I think her little figurehead, all weathered, worn and bare,
With its valiant faded simper and its sad forsaken stare,
Gazes out across the water where the long tides break in snow
On the cruel hidden ledges where a ship sank long ago.
"Coasting Brigantine - Unnamed" by Cicely Fox Smith
The sunset light was on her spars; the sunset splendour made
A glory in her ragged gear, her rigging slack and frayed;
It fired her battered figurehead, and, passing, touched with flame
Among her scrollwork's tarnished gold her new out-landish name.
"Sold Foreign" by Cicely Fox Smith

In news:

A Captain, Not a Figurehead.
Parker's the chief creative officer of Halston and has been a figurehead for the vintage label for a year.
Like a figurehead on the prow of a ship, Stewie travels through Brooklyn on the front of a truck.
Romney's role as a figurehead .
North Korea's figurehead head of state will attend Iran summit.
Rather than sending supreme leader Kim Jong-un to a developing nations summit in Iran, North Korea will send their figurehead leader of state, Kim Yong-nam.
Dangers of When a Brand is Defined By Its Figurehead .
Software giant Apple is losing its figurehead , as Steve Jobs (pictured) announced his resignation as CEO yesterday.
Civil rights movements have often sought out figureheads with unblemished pasts.
The English Premier League club's stalwart figurehead Peter Hill-Wood is recovering in hospital after suffering a heart attack the day before Arsenal 's 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea.
Eric Bischoff, the figurehead of WWE's flagship show, "Raw," took to the ring on September 9, 2002.
IT HAS been 5 days since the NHL and its players association figureheads furiously walked out on each other in Manhattan.
The military envisioned a figurehead president with limited powers.
Back then, the new democratic government wanted to replace communist-appointed church figureheads, including the patriarch.
Freebie Check out Milwaukee's Plight Of A Parasite Formerly Known As The Figureheads.