a covering of feathers; plumage.
the arrangement of feathers on an arrow.
Music. a very light and delicate use of the violin bow.

Origin of feathering

First recorded in 1520–30; feather + -ing1
Related formsun·der·feath·er·ing, noun




one of the horny structures forming the principal covering of birds, consisting typically of a hard, tubular portion attached to the body and tapering into a thinner, stemlike portion bearing a series of slender, barbed processes that interlock to form a flat structure on each side.
kind; character; nature: two boys of the same feather.
something like a feather, as a tuft or fringe of hair.
something very light, small, or trivial: Your worry is a mere feather.
Archery. one of the vanes at the tail of an arrow or dart.
Carpentry. a spline for joining the grooved edges of two boards.
Masonry. See under plug and feathers.
a featherlike flaw, especially in a precious stone.
Machinery. feather key.
Archaic. attire.
Obsolete. plumage.

verb (used with object)

to provide with feathers, as an arrow.
to clothe or cover with or as with feathers.
Rowing. to turn (an oar) after a stroke so that the blade becomes nearly horizontal, and hold it thus as it is moved back into position for the next stroke.
  1. to change the blade angle of (a propeller) so that the chords of the blades are approximately parallel to the line of flight.
  2. to turn off (an engine) while in flight.

verb (used without object)

to grow feathers.
to be or become feathery in appearance.
to move like feathers.
Rowing. to feather an oar.

Verb Phrases

feather into, South Midland U.S. to attack (a person, task, or problem) vigorously.

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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for feathering

Contemporary Examples of feathering

  • Republicans are spending the vast majority of their time tarring and feathering each other.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Why Obama Won't Back a Strike on Iran

    Andrew Bast

    February 26, 2012

  • Never mind that China obsessively focuses on feathering its own economic nest, often at the expense of poor nations.

    The Daily Beast logo
    We Just Saw the Future

    Leslie H. Gelb

    December 20, 2009

Historical Examples of feathering

  • The crew instantly levelled their oars, feathering the blades.

    The Boat Club

    Oliver Optic

  • On the return, the young oarsmen were instructed in feathering their oars.

    The Boat Club

    Oliver Optic

  • The oarsmen levelled their oars, feathering the blades, and listening to the march.

    The Boat Club

    Oliver Optic

  • Rising and going back to the feathering of the prayer-stick.

    The Arrow-Maker

    Mary Austin

  • There shall be no tarring and feathering of women by any man in my employ.

    The Prairie Mother

    Arthur Stringer

British Dictionary definitions for feathering



the plumage of a bird; feathers
another word for feathers (def. 2)
  1. an imperfection in print caused by the spreading of ink
  2. the use of additional space between lines in typesetting in order to fill the page



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 feathering



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

feathering in Science



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 feathering


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.