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white feather

noun, Chiefly British
a symbol of cowardice.
show the white feather, to behave in a cowardly manner.
Origin of white feather
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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for white feather
  • The priest took his wand-which, with its bouquet of folded paper, resembled a white feather duster-and touched it to the flames.
  • Harry is given a white feather by four of his friends, a public repudiation.
  • Immature cranes are a reddish cinnamon color that results in a mottled appearance as the white feather bases extend.
  • The eagle staff is topped by a deer antler that holds a small white feather.
  • Each time a cinnamon feather is lost, a white feather grows in its place.
  • Inevitable white feather boa, and the count never with out his long, light overcoat.
British Dictionary definitions for white feather

white feather

a symbol or mark of cowardice
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 white feather

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 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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