white feather


noun Chiefly British.

a symbol of cowardice.

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Idioms for white feather

    show the white feather, to behave in a cowardly manner.

Origin of white feather

First recorded in 1775–85; orig. from a white feather in a gamecock's tail, taken as a sign of inferior breeding and hence of poor fighting qualities
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for show the white feather

white feather

noun

a symbol or mark of cowardice
show the white feather to act in a cowardly manner

Word Origin for white feather

from the belief that a white feather in a gamecock's tail was a sign of a poor fighter
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

Idioms and Phrases with show the white feather (1 of 2)

show the white feather

Display cowardice, as in The minute Bob put up his fists, Bill showed the white feather and backed down. This expression comes from cockfighting, where a white feather in a bird's tail is considered a sign of inferior breeding. [Early 1800s]

Idioms and Phrases with show the white feather (2 of 2)

white feather

see show the white feather.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.