feath·er | \ˈfe-t͟hər \

Definition of feather 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : any of the light, horny, epidermal outgrowths that form the external covering of the body of birds

Note: Feathers include the smaller down feathers and the larger contour and flight feathers. Larger feathers consist of a shaft (rachis) bearing branches (barbs) which bear smaller branches (barbules). These smaller branches bear tiny hook-bearing processes (barbicels) which interlock with the barbules of an adjacent barb to link the barbs into a continuous stiff vane. Down feathers lack barbules, resulting in fluffy feathers which provide insulation below the contour feathers.

b archaic : plume sense 2a

c : the vane of an arrow

2a : plumage

b : kind, nature birds of a feather flock together

c : attire, dress

d : condition, mood woke up in fine feather

e feathers plural : composure some feathers had been ruffled— D. J. Blum

4 : a projecting strip, rib, fin, or flange

5 : a feathery flaw in the eye or in a precious stone

6 : the act of feathering an oar

a feather in one's cap

: a mark of distinction : honor


feathered; feathering\ˈfet͟h-riŋ, ˈfe-t͟hə- \

Definition of feather (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to furnish (something, such as an arrow) with a feather

b : to cover, clothe, or adorn with or as if with feathers

2a : to turn (an oar blade) almost horizontal when lifting from the water at the end of a stroke to reduce air resistance

b(1) : to change the angle of (airplane propeller blades) so that the chords become approximately parallel to the line of flight also : to change the angle of airplane propeller blades of (an engine) in such a manner

(2) : to change the angle of (a rotor blade of a rotorcraft) periodically in forward flight

3 : to reduce the edge of to a featheredge

4a of a bird : to cut (the air) with a wing

b of a fish : to cut (the water) with a fin

5 : to join by a tongue and groove

6 : to hit, throw, pass, or shoot softly and usually with precision feathered a perfect lob over the net

intransitive verb

1 : to grow or form feathers

2 : to have or take on the appearance of a feather or something feathered

3 : to soak in and spread : blur used of ink or a printed impression

4 : to feather an oar or an airplane propeller blade

feather one's nest

: to provide for oneself especially financially by unethically exploiting a position of trust


geographical name
Feath·er | \ˈfe-t͟hər \

Definition of Feather (Entry 3 of 3)

river 100 miles (161 kilometers) long in north central California flowing south into the Sacramento River

Illustration of feather

Illustration of feather


feather 1a: A: 1 quill, 2 vane; B: 1 barb, 2 barbule, 3 barbicel with hamulus

In the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from feather


featherless adjective

Synonyms for feather

Synonyms: Noun

cheer, humor, mode, mood, spirit, temper

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of feather in a Sentence


the two brothers are sports-obsessed jocks, and most of their friends are of the same feather prom couples strutted into the ballroom in full feather

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The decorated actress, who has taken home two Tony Awards and an Oscar nomination in the past two years, just earned another feather in her cap — this one maybe the most unlikely of all. Libby Hill, latimes.com, "Laurie Metcalf emerges from the ashes of 'Roseanne' with an Emmy nomination," 12 July 2018 The win gives Yeaton another feather in her cap after winning the Robert Spurr Hill Climb on Bird Ridge last month. Matt Tunseth, Anchorage Daily News, "Skiers put on a show in women’s Mount Marathon race, with Yeaton winning her rookie run," 5 July 2018 What’s more, no matter how influenced each of the 54 couture looks was by the aforementioned culture, every single girl who walked the runway was styled with at least one feather in her hair. Avery Matera, Teen Vogue, "People Are Accusing Zuhair Murad of Cultural Appropriation After #IndianSummer Couture Collection," 26 Jan. 2018 In a tribute to the late Hubert de Givenchy, designer Clare Waight Keller showed a cape made of white, dove-like feathers. Emilia Petrarca, The Cut, "What Paris Couture and Jonathan Franzen Have in Common," 6 July 2018 The roots of these are covered by rows of smaller feathers. Amy Raudenbush, Philly.com, "Calling all kids! Draw this cute duck for a chance to see your artwork published," 22 June 2018 Design director Peter Hopkins told Fader magazine that the Nigerian team's confidence inspired him in his designs for the kit which has a bold neon green pattern that echoes the pattern of eagle wing feathers. Stephanie Busari, Cnn And Damilola Odutayo, CNN, "It's official! Nigeria is the most stylish team at the World Cup," 13 June 2018 For my eagle dance, my family made me wings out of feathers (pictured above). Lindsay Schallon, Glamour, "This Is What the Beauty of Cultural Appreciation Looks Like," 13 June 2018 At the CFDAs, Kendall showed up in an off-the-shoulder lavender mini dress with lots of feathers. Mekita Rivas, Teen Vogue, "Kendall Jenner Posts Topless Photo With Ice Cream Emojis," 8 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Witherspoon went for a shorter and more playful style, in a sleeveless A-line dress by Prada and feathered sandals. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Emilia Clarke Freaked Out Over Reese Witherspoon at the Critics' Choice Awards," 12 Jan. 2018 Local anger and resentment led to mob riots in which colonists burned customs vessels and tarred and feathered customs agents and informants. Peter Andreas, Washington Post, "Breaking border laws is as American as it gets," 3 July 2018 This woman now has been tarred and feathered as a racist by Howard Schultz with no evidence that race had anything to do with it. Fox News, "Ingraham: How to defeat the swamp's efforts to take down Trump's nominees," 19 Apr. 2018 Hush, now; anyone implying there is nothing new under the sun would risk being tarred and feathered at this particular venue. Leah Garchik, San Francisco Chronicle, "The winners and the sufferers, and the aftermath of election day," 10 June 2018 Since the film's 1993 debut, scientists have discovered that velociraptors were actually feathered, Dilophosauruses definitely didn’t spit poison, and a T-Rex’s vision was very much not based on movement. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "The Real Science of Bringing Back the Dinosaurs," 20 June 2018 Anonymous comments on the Second City Cop blog have called for Cunat and Viets-VanLear to be tarred and feathered and ridden out on a rail. Maya Dukmasova, Chicago Reader, "News / Education / Crime Distinguished CPS principal resigns after threats, controversy over anti-police speaker," 19 June 2018 Behind four white walls, a gold feathered Gucci dress and a green McQueen gown, pictured above, hang amongst artificial Japanese cherry blossoms and cotton-like clouds. NOLA.com, "Gucci, McQueen gowns illustrate feminine archetypes in NOMA's first fashion exhibit," 20 Feb. 2018 Our furry, finned, feathered and scaled friends are the subject of this exhibit focusing on how humans have depicted animals in prints, drawings and posters over 500 years. Amy Wang | The Oregonian/oregonlive, OregonLive.com, "7 arts picks: Animal art, Portland Opera, 'All My Sons,' more," 15 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'feather.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of feather


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for feather


Middle English fether, from Old English; akin to Old High German federa wing, Latin petere to go to, seek, Greek petesthai to fly, piptein to fall, pteron wing

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about feather

Statistics for feather

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for feather

The first known use of feather was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for feather



English Language Learners Definition of feather

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any one of the light growths that make up the outer covering of the body of a bird



English Language Learners Definition of feather (Entry 2 of 2)

: to put a feather in or on (something)


feath·er | \ˈfe-t͟hər \

Kids Definition of feather

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: one of the light horny growths that make up the outer covering of a bird

Other Words from feather

feathered \-t͟hərd \ adjective


feathered; feathering

Kids Definition of feather (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to provide or decorate with feathers

2 : to grow or form feathers


feath·er | \ˈfet͟h-ər \

Medical Definition of feather 

: one of the light horny epidermal outgrowths that form the external covering of the body of birds and that consist of a shaft bearing on each side a series of barbs which bear barbules which in turn bear barbicels commonly ending in the hooked processes and interlocking with the barbules of an adjacent barb to link the barbs into a continuous vane

Other Words from feather

feathered \-ərd \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on feather

What made you want to look up feather? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!