- 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.
- to change the blade angle of (a propeller) so that the chords of the blades are approximately parallel to the line of flight.
- 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.
- feather into, South Midland U.S. to attack (a person, task, or problem) vigorously.
- 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.
- 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
- a bird’s feather or artificial substitute fitted to an arrow to direct its flight
- 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
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.
- 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.
Also, in good or high feather. In excellent form, health, or humor. For example, He was in fine feather, joking with all his visitors. These expressions all allude to a bird’s healthy plumage, a usage dating from the late 1500s and no longer very common.
In addition to the idioms beginning with feather
- feather in one’s cap, a
- feather one’s nest
- 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