feath·​er | \ ˈfe-t͟hər How to pronounce feather (audio) \

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 How to pronounce feather (audio) , 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 How to pronounce Feather (audio) \

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

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Other Words from feather


featherless adjective

Examples of feather in a Sentence

Noun 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 There are other nights when the basketball will be a feather with a steel tip at the end, a dart, flying off the hand with purpose and direction, control and beauty, nights of basketball magic and basketball wonder. Los Angeles Times, 14 July 2021 The Ordonez signing is another feather in the cap of Cincinnati's young academy. Pat Brennan, The Enquirer, 3 July 2021 The addition is a major feather in the recruiting cap of Oregon’s coaching staff, as Arizona was widely viewed as the team-to-beat early in the process. oregonlive, 28 June 2021 While any feather-ruffling positive action someone takes is worth saluting, being competently courageous increases the likelihood of sustained change. Ron Carucci, Forbes, 6 June 2021 Cyrus opted for a semi-sheer baby pink dress with ostrich feather trim and Grimes went the full royal route, wearing a pair of white opera gloves and a fairytale princess dress that appeared plucked out of a video game. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, 15 May 2021 This birds-of-a-feather-retire-together concept has been well-tested in the U.S. Steve Parrish, Forbes, 26 May 2021 The little boy with the chicken-feather hat is no more, as the prototype for the aloof celebrity fashion designer has emerged. Whitney Friedlander, Vulture, 14 May 2021 Or a male Ramphocelus carbo has barbules that are angled instead of flat, to decrease the reflectance of the feather by scattering the light that hits it. Matt Simon, Wired, 30 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Girls were required to have a center part, feather everything and make sure their hair smelled of Wella Balsam. Star Tribune, 16 May 2021 Paint on the light-colored paint, and with a small, dry brush, feather the edges, so the paint extends a bit beyond the patch. Washington Post, 10 May 2021 As Bergum rushed to shut down the engine and feather the propeller, the crew actuated the single-shot engine fire extinguisher. Eric Tegler, Popular Mechanics, 16 Mar. 2021 At this point, Ingram’s ability to feather in jumpers from all over the court is a constant. Christian Clark, NOLA.com, 14 Dec. 2020 Then, use a joint knife to spread joint compound over the entire repair, while trying to feather the edges of the compound into the surrounding wall. New York Times, 5 Dec. 2020 Follow her pro tip and start at the center of your lips and feather out for a long-wear stain. Nicole Saunders, NBC News, 14 Oct. 2020 There wasn’t much of a soft spot, but Herbert saw enough over the middle to feather a 25-yard pass between safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed. Jonas Shaffer, baltimoresun.com, 23 Sep. 2020 The brakes are firm, proportional, and easy to feather on and off. Csaba Csere, Car and Driver, 16 Sep. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for feather

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for feather

Last Updated

18 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Feather.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feather. Accessed 24 Jul. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce feather (audio) \

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 How to pronounce feather (audio) \

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 How to pronounce feather (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on feather

Nglish: Translation of feather for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of feather for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about feather


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