a feather in one's cap, a praiseworthy accomplishment; distinction; honor: Being chosen class president is a feather in her cap.
    birds of a feather. bird(def 15).
    feather one's nest, to take advantage of the opportunities to enrich oneself: The mayor had used his term of office to feather his nest.
    in fine/high feather, in good form, humor, or health: feeling in fine feather.
    ruffle someone's feathers, to anger, upset, or annoy (another person).
    smooth one's ruffled/rumpled feathers, to regain one's composure; become calm: After the argument, we each retired to our own rooms to smooth our ruffled feathers.

Origin of feather

before 900; Middle English, Old English fether; cognate with Dutch veder, German Feder, Old Norse fjǫthr; akin to Greek pterón, Sanskrit pátram wing, feather
Related formsfeath·er·less, adjectivefeath·er·less·ness, nounfeath·er·like, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for feather

Contemporary Examples of feather

Historical Examples of feather

British Dictionary definitions for feather



any of the flat light waterproof epidermal structures forming the plumage of birds, each consisting of a hollow shaft having a vane of barbs on either side. They are essential for flight and help maintain body temperature
something resembling a feather, such as a tuft of hair or grass
  1. a bird's feather or artificial substitute fitted to an arrow to direct its flight
  2. the feathered end of an arrow, opposite the head
a strip, spline, or tongue of wood fitted into a groove
the wake created on the surface of the water by the raised periscope of a submarine
rowing the position of an oar turned parallel to the water between strokesCompare square (def. 8)
a step in ballroom dancing in which a couple maintain the conventional hold but dance side by side
condition of spirits; fettlein fine feather
something of negligible value; jotI don't care a feather
birds of a feather people of the same type, character, or interests
feather in one's cap a cause for pleasure at one's achievementsyour promotion is a feather in your cap
not take a feather out of someone or not knock a feather out of someone Irish to fail to upset or injure someoneit didn't take a feather out of him


(tr) to fit, cover, or supply with feathers
rowing to turn (an oar) parallel to the water during recovery between strokes, principally in order to lessen wind resistanceCompare square (def. 41)
(in canoeing) to turn (a paddle) parallel to the direction of the canoe between strokes, while keeping it in the water, principally in order to move silently
to change the pitch of (an aircraft propeller) so that the chord lines of the blades are in line with the airflow
(tr) to join (two boards) by means of a tongue-and-groove joint
(intr) (of a bird) to grow feathers
(intr) to move or grow like feathers
feather one's nest to provide oneself with comforts, esp financial
See also feathers
Derived Formsfeatherless, adjectivefeather-like, adjectivefeathery, adjective

Word Origin for feather

Old English fether; related to Old Frisian fethere, Old Norse fjöthr feather, Old High German fedara wing, Greek petesthai to fly, Sanskrit patati he flies
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for feather

Old English feðer "feather," in plural, "wings," from Proto-Germanic *fethro (cf. Old Saxon fethara, Old Norse fioþr, Swedish fjäder, Middle Dutch vedere, Dutch veder, Old High German fedara, German Feder), from PIE *pet-ra-, from root *pet- "to rush, to fly" (see petition (n.)). Feather-headed "silly" is from 1640s. Feather duster attested by 1858. Figurative use of feather in (one's) cap attested by 1734.


Old English fiðerian "to furnish with feathers or wings," from feðer (see feather (n.)). Meaning "to fit (an arrow) with feathers" is from early 13c.; that of "to deck, adorn, or provide with plumage" is from late 15c. In reference to oars (later paddles, propellers, etc.) from 1740. Phrase feather one's nest "enrich oneself" is from 1580s. Related: Feathered; feathering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for feather



One of the light, flat structures that cover the skin of birds. A feather is made of a horny substance and has a narrow, hollow shaft bearing flat vanes formed of many parallel barbs. The barbs of outer feathers are formed of even smaller structures (called barbules) that interlock. The barbs of down feathers do not interlock. Evolutionarily, feathers are modified scales, first seen in certain dinosaurs.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with feather


In addition to the idioms beginning with feather

  • feather in one's cap, a
  • feather one's nest

also see:

  • birds of a feather
  • fuss and feathers
  • in fine feather
  • knock down with a feather
  • light as a feather
  • make the dust (feathers) fly
  • ruffle someone's feathers
  • show the white feather
  • tar and feather
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.