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

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Other Words from feather


featherless adjective

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

Life itself relies on many of the concepts of fractals: trees are fractal, as are feathers, coast lines, and many other things in nature. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Fractal structure produces fractal electrons with fractal energies," 2 Dec. 2018 From parakeets to horses, pretty much every animal with feathers or fur has dander, Alice Hoyt, M.D., an allergist in the allergy and clinical immunology department at Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. Colleen Stinchcombe, SELF, "Here Are 9 Ways to Deal With a Pet Allergy If You Love Animals," 30 Nov. 2018 There are old golf balls, too, including one made from leather and stuffed with feathers. Michael Walsh, Courant Community, "Hill-Stead Focusing On Its Connection To Golf Through New Exhibit," 26 June 2018 So far, the test results indicated that 33 hours of rain wouldn’t rob the feathers, which had been treated with a eco-friendly Durable Water Repellent (DWR), of their insulating properties. Kassondra Cloos, Outside Online, "Outdoor Gear Makers: Get Green or Die Trying," 13 June 2018 Fish and other animals, reports Reuters, shed feathers, feces and urine, leaving behind a trail of DNA clues. Sean Rossman, USA TODAY, "Scientists, using DNA, will try again to find the Loch Ness monster," 23 May 2018 Above his red-streaked cheeks and forehead sat a resplendent headdress glowing with hues of light yellow, mustard yellow, crimson red, orange and turquoise feathers. Doug Hansen, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Ecuador’s amazing Amazon," 23 May 2018 Don your fox fur, snake skin, eagle feathers, gold, silver and tourmaline. Ed Masley, azcentral, "Phoenix local music picks for May: Hogjaw, Technicolors, the Woodworks, Intent, Sunday at Noon," 3 May 2018 Sebrights have much rounder feathers than most rooster breeds. Julie Zickefoose, WSJ, "‘Unnatural Selection’ Review: A Better Bird, Bit by Bit," 22 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Chopra opted to wear a white, feathered Marchesa gown for the occasion. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Are Married—Here's Everything We Know About the Wedding," 4 Dec. 2018 Our youngest daughter, Stoli, and her fiancé are feathering their nest in the cottage across the yard and expecting their first child. Heather Lende, Woman's Day, "Living with Grown Children," 25 Jan. 2012 Gothic drama ensued from Rosalie Craig in Christopher Kane’s feathered sheath, and Coleman’s crested black-lace and tulle dress beguiled the room. Vogue, "Claire Foy, Idris Elba, Anna Wintour, Sophie Okonedo, Ralph Fiennes, and the Cast of Hamilton Fete the 64th Evening Standard Theatre Awards," 19 Nov. 2018 Now, an array of sparkling minis and feathered frocks suggested the new Celine woman is more interested in dressing for the party scene than for the office. Lauren Alexis Fisher, Harper's BAZAAR, "Hedi Slimane’s Celine Is Here and It Looks Completely Different," 28 Sep. 2018 For it, Gaga still rocks her peroxide-blonde hair and dark, feathered brows. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Lady Gaga's Minimalist Look for Vogue's October Cover Was Done With Just $50 of Drugstore Makeup," 10 Sep. 2018 Elder feathered statesmen are constantly bickering. Charlie Theel, Ars Technica, "Root is a terrific—and fully asymmetric—woodland wargame," 29 Sep. 2018 Penelope Cruz was in the white camp with a touch of soft gray, in feathered Chanel, landing on some highlight lists. Leanne Italie, The Seattle Times, "Tracee Ellis Ross leads parade of pink on Emmys carpet," 17 Sep. 2018 Volvo offers drivers a graphically beautiful gauge pod, with dials that have a touch of feathering and a nice typeface. Scott Sturgis, Philly.com, "Driving the 2018 Volvo XC60," 5 July 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.

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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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Statistics for feather

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for feather

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

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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 \

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

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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 nest or breeding place

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