What Is the Figurehead at the Bow of a Ship Called?

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A carved figure mounted on a ship’s bow is called a nautical figurehead. In the early days of seafaring, when wooden ships sailed the seas, carved figureheads depicting women were also known as “Neptune’s wooden angels.”

Throughout the history of wooden ship building, ships’ bows were fitted with figureheads to act as lookouts and to lead sailors safely on their way. Animals were the first subject of choice for figurehead design, but by the mid-1700s, human-design figureheads became the new style. Later, mermaids and women were popular figurehead choices despite the superstitious beliefs that sailors held regarding women and their adverse effects on a ship’s voyage.