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figurehead (n.)

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]

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Definitions of figurehead

figurehead (n.)
a person used as a cover for some questionable activity;
Synonyms: front man / front / nominal head / straw man / strawman
figurehead (n.)
figure on the bow of some sailing vessels;
From wordnet.princeton.edu