straw man

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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."

Alternative forms[edit]


straw man (plural straw men)

  1. A doll or scarecrow (particularly one stuffed with straw).
  2. 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.
  3. An innocuous person or someone of nominal or lesser importance, as a front man or straw boss.



straw man (third-person singular simple present straw mans, present participle straw manning, simple past and past participle straw manned)

  1. to falsely attribute an insubstantial argument (a straw man argument) to another through direct declaration or indirect implication
    Person A: "Cats have claws."
    Person B: "Not all cats have claws, some are declawed."
    Person A: "Don't straw man me, I never said -all-"
    Person B: "Well I never said -you- said all, so don't straw man me either. But you didn't say 'some' cats or 'most' cats so I wanted to interject in case others assumed the lack of qualifier to imply 'all' cats."

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