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white feather

noun, Chiefly British
1.
a symbol of cowardice.
Idioms
2.
show the white feather, to behave in a cowardly manner.
Origin
1775-1785
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 Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for show white feather

white feather

noun
1.
a symbol or mark of cowardice
2.
show the white feather, to act in a cowardly manner
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for show white feather

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
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Idioms and Phrases with show white feather

white feather

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