straw man

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See also: strawman


Alternative forms[edit]


From straw +‎ man. 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.”

Compare West Frisian strieman, Dutch strooman, stroman, German Strohmann, Danish stråmand, Swedish stråman, Norwegian stråmann.


straw man (plural straw men)

  1. A doll or scarecrow, particularly one stuffed with straw.
  2. (figurative) An innocuous person or someone of nominal or lesser importance, as a front man or straw boss.
  3. (figurative) An insubstantial concept, idea, endeavor or argument, particularly one deliberately set up to be weakly supported, e.g. by misrepresenting an opponent's argument by broadening or narrowing the scope of a premise, so that it can be easily knocked down; especially to impugn the strength of any related or contrasted thing or idea.
    Antonym: steelman
    • 2018, Lars Ljungqvist and Thomas J. Sargent, Recursive macroeconomic theory, 4th edition, MIT Press, page 4:
      This Euler inequality recurs as either the cornerstone or the straw man in many theories contained in this book.
  4. (figurative, engineering, business) An outline serving as an initial proposal for a project, usually refined iteratively.
    a tentative straw-man spec
  5. Synonym of straw buyer
    • 2000, John W. Reilly, The Language of Real Estate, page 381:
      If a broker or a salesperson attempts to use a straw man to purchase property for which he or she has a listing, the real estate person must specifically disclose in writing to the seller this relationship with the buyer.



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; to put words in someone's mouth.
    Coordinate term: steelman
    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."
    • 1996 [Vale Press], Ralph H. Johnson, The Rise of Informal Logic, Windsor Studies in Argumentation, 2014, E-edition, page 178,
      I have also argued that he is guilty of straw manning Copi and that his charge of shoddy reasoning against Kahane makes use of an equivocation on the concept of fallacy.
    • 2016, Stijn Smismans, “5: Regulatory Procedure and Participation in the European Union”, in Francesca Bignami, David Zaring, editors, Comparative Law and Regulation, Edward Elgar Publishing, page 133:
      11 It should, however, also be noted that in certain cases later "neo-corporatist authors" straw manned the pluralist model, making it easier to criticise (Nedelmann and Meier, 1979: 94).
    • 2021, John T. Lysaker, Philosophy, Writing, and the Character of Thought, University of Chicago Press, page 39:
      My point does not concern the principle of charity or whether Hickman has straw manned postmodernism.

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