from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A person who is set up as a cover or front for a questionable enterprise.
  • n. An argument or opponent set up so as to be easily refuted or defeated.
  • n. A bundle of straw made into the likeness of a man and often used as a scarecrow.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A doll or scarecrow (particularly one stuffed with straw).
  • n. An insubstantial concept, idea, endeavor or argument, particularly one deliberately set up to be weakly supported, so that it can be easily knocked down; especially to impugn the strength of any related thing or idea.
  • n. An innocuous person or someone of nominal or lesser importance, as a front man or straw boss.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a person used as a cover for some questionable activity
  • n. a weak or sham argument set up to be easily refuted
  • n. an effigy in the shape of a man to frighten birds away from seeds


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 1986 passim, shows first known usages for things insubstantial date to 1585-95. Universal Dictionary of the English Language, 1897, Vol 4, p. 4485, notes "man of straw" as "The figure of a man formed of an old suit of clothes stuffed with straw; hence, the mere resemblance of a man; one of no substance or means; an imaginary person."


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  • See straw-person argument.

    November 5, 2010

  • Popular amongst creationists.

    June 9, 2009

  • "An imaginary argument of no substance advanced in order to be easily confuted or an imaginary adversary advancing such an argument." --Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary

    June 9, 2009