The humanoid in question is the following object:

It's basically a straw man used to scare crow. So I think both straw man and scarecrow are valid names for it. However, the dictionary says straw man also has another meaning:

someone, often an imaginary person, who is used to hide an illegal or secret activity

I think this meaning has nothing to do with scaring crow, but I'm wondering, with the existence of this additional meaning, if these two words are still interchangeable when referring to the humanoid without causing ambiguity.


2 Answers 2


In US English, the humanoid objects in the picture are only ever called scarecrows. The term straw man is only ever used in a metaphorical sense. If you said, "There was a straw man standing in the cornfield", it would be perfectly understandable, because there is obviously not an imaginary person in the cornfield, but it is not the normal way to say it.


The physical objects, put in fields, are pretty much only called "scarecrows". Straw man is nearly exclusively used as a phrase in argumentation:


"A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man."

Which might make you think it would be interchangeable with scarecrow, but... it's not. Perhaps because this abstract usage has become so prevalent?

Furthermore, straw in isolation--as I've heard it--is generally used "nowadays" only for the drinking straw. Laypeople would probably call farming-grass-substances "hay", unaware of the finer points of distinction (provided below in comments).

  • 1
    Straw is hay with the seeds removed, eg to make bread. They are not the same thing. You wouldn't want to use hay as garden mulch, unless you want to be growing random seed crops next year ;) Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 6:44
  • 1
    Straw is the dead stalks of cereal crops that have been harvested and does not contain much nutrition for use as animal feed. Straw has other uses such as bedding for animals.Hay is the stalks and leaves of grasses and other herbaceous plants such as clover that have been harvested when the stalk is growing. This means that hay contains nutrients that can be used as animal feed as has been said hay and straw are not the same thing.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 9:45

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