white feather

white feather

white feather Word Origin noun Chiefly British.

  1. a symbol of cowardice.


  1. show the white feather, to behave in a cowardly manner.

Origin of white feather First recorded in 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 British Dictionary definitions for show the 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 for white feather from the belief that a white feather in a gamecock’s tail was a sign of a poor fighter Word Origin and History for show the 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].

Idioms and Phrases with show the white feather show the white feather

Display cowardice, as in The minute Bob put up his fists, Bill showed the white feather and backed down. This expression comes from cockfighting, where a white feather in a bird’s tail is considered a sign of inferior breeding. [Early 1800s]

white feather

see show the white feather.

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