WORD ORIGIN | IDIOMS Idioms 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
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for show the 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
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Word Origin and History for show the white feather n.
as a symbol of cowardice, 1785, supposedly from game-cocks, "where having a white feather, is proof he is not of the true game breed" [Grose].
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Idioms and Phrases with 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]
see show the white feather.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
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