also figure-head, 1765, from figure (n.) + head (n.). The ornament on the projecting part of the head of a ship, immediately under the bowsprit; sense of "leader without real authority" is first attested 1868.
You may say that the king is still head of the State, and that this is a sufficient basis for loyal feeling; certainly, if he were really so, and not a mere ornamented figure-head on the ship of state. [James Hadley, "Essays Philological and Critical," London, 1873]
1758, intransitive, "to tip or turn over;" 1769, transitive, "to turn (a vessel) over, cause to overturn, turn (anything) topsy-turvy;" a nautical word of obscure origin, perhaps (as Skeat suggests) from Spanish capuzar "to sink by the head," from cabo "head," from Latin caput "head" (from PIE root *kaput- "head"). For sense, compare French chavirer "to capsize, upset," faire capot "capsize;" Provençal cap virar "to turn the head." Related: Capsized; capsizing.
"nebulous, hair-like envelope surrounding the head of a comet," 1765, from Latin coma, from Greek komē "hair of the head," which is of unknown origin. Earlier in English as a botanical term for a tuft of hairs (1660s). For the constellation Coma Berenices, see Berenice. Related: Comal.
"garland or wreath for the head," late 14c., from Old French chapelet (Old North French capelet) "garland, rosary," properly "a small hat," diminutive of chape, chapeau "head-dress, hood, hat" (see chapeau).
"pertaining to the head," early 15c., from Latin cephalicus, from Greek kephalikos "pertaining to the head," from kephalē "head" (see cephalo-).