American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. One of the light, flat growths forming the plumage of birds, consisting of numerous slender, closely arranged parallel barbs forming a vane on either side of a horny, tapering, partly hollow shaft.
- n. Plumage.
- n. Clothing; attire.
- n. A feathery tuft or fringe of hair, as on the legs or tail of some dogs.
- n. Character, kind, or nature: Birds of a feather flock together.
- n. Something small, trivial, or inconsequential.
- n. A strip, wedge, or flange used as a strengthening part.
- n. A wedge or key that fits into a groove to make a joint.
- n. The vane of an arrow.
- n. A feather-shaped flaw, as in a precious stone.
- n. The wake made by a submarine's periscope.
- n. The act of feathering the blade of an oar in rowing.
- v. To cover, dress, or decorate with or as if with feathers.
- v. To fit (an arrow) with a feather.
- v. To thin, reduce, or fringe the edge of by cutting, shaving, or wearing away.
- v. To shorten and taper (hair) by cutting and thinning.
- v. To connect with a tongue-and-groove joint.
- v. To turn (an oar blade) almost horizontal as it is carried back after each stroke.
- v. To alter the pitch of (a propeller) so that the chords of the blades are parallel with the line of flight.
- v. To alter the pitch of (the rotor of a helicoptor) while in forward flight.
- v. To turn off (an aircraft engine) while in flight.
- v. To grow feathers or become feathered.
- v. To move, spread, or grow in a manner suggestive of feathers.
- v. To feather an oar.
- v. To feather a propeller.
- idiom. feather in (one's) cap An act or deed to one's credit; a distinctive achievement.
- idiom. feather (one's) nest To grow wealthy by taking advantage of one's position or by making use of property or funds left in one's trust.
- idiom. fine In excellent form, health, or humor.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. One of the epidermal appendages which together constitute the plumage, the peculiar covering of birds; also, collectively, the plumage. Feathers are extremely modified scales. The nearest approach to them in animals other than birds is probably the quills of the porcupine. Feathers are epidermal, non-vascular, and nonnervous appendages. consisting of a horny and pithy substance, and subject to periodical molt. They grow somewhat like hairs, in a little pit or pouch formed by an inversion of the dermal layer of the integument, in a closed follicle, upon a peculiarly molded papilla, which causes the feather to assume its special shape. They are seldom implanted uniformly over the surface, but grow in special tracts or areas separated by naked spaces. (See pteryla, apterium.) All of a bird's feathers collectively considered constitute the plumage or ptilosis. (See cut under
bird.) A perfect feather consists of a main stem, shaft, or scape; a supplementary stem, aftershaft, or hyporachis; and vanes, webs, or vexilla: these together making the standard. The scape is divided into two parts: one, nearest the body of the bird, is the barrel, quill, or calamus, a hard, horny, hollow, semi-transparent tube with one end inserted in the skin; it bears no webs, and passes insensibly at a point marked by a little pit (umbilicus) into the shaft proper or rachis. This is squarish in section, tapers to a fine point, is highly elastic, opaque, and solidly filled with dry pith; it bears the vexilla. The aftershaft is usually like a miniature of the main feather, springing from the stem of the latter at the junction of the calamus and rachis. (See aftershaft.) With its vanes it is called the hypoptilum. Sometimes it is as large as the main feather. There are two vanes, on opposite sides of the rachis. Each vane consists of a series of mutually appressed, thin, flat, linear or lancelinear plates, the barbs, set off obliquely from the rachis by their basal ends at a varying open angle. (See cut under barb.) To cause these plates to cohere with one another, and make a webbing of the vane, each barb bears secondary vanes; these are barbules, and bear to the barbs the same relation that the barbs bear to the rachis. Barbules are also fringed, as if frayed out, along their lower edges; each such fringe makes a tertiary vane. When these vanes are simple, they are termed barbicels; when hooked, hooklets or hamuli. (See cut under barbule.) From such perfect structure feathers may be reduced in various ways, even to lacking everything but the shaft; when this is very thick, feathers become much like scales, as in the penguin; when it is fine, they resemble hairs or bristles. In general, three types of feather-structure are recognized: The perfectly feathery, plumous or pennaceous, structure. The goosequill used as a pen is a good example (though it lacks an aftershaft). Most contour-feathers are pennaceous. The downy or plumulaceous, such as makes up the under-plumage or down. The filoplumaceous, which approaches a bristle or hair. (See cut under filoplume.) But there is no strict line of demarcation, and in fact most feathers are pennaceous with plumulaceous bases of the webs. Feathers are also classified as pennæ, plumæ, or contour-feathers; plumulæ, or down-feathers; semiplumæ, or half-feathers; filoplumæ, or threadfeathers; and pulviplumæ, dust-feathers, or powderdown. (See phrases below.) The acquisition of feathers is called endysis; their loss, ecdysis. Birds which acquire feathers in the egg are Præcoces or Ptilopædes; those which are hatched naked are Altrices, Psilopædes, or Gymnopædes. Feathers are of extremely rapid growth. They are of many shapes, often remarkable, and of every possible color. The color is usually due to actual pigmentation, but in many cases to iridescence. The optical effect of iridescence is due to the texture of the webs. Among all epidermal structures, feathers probably combine in the highest degree the qualities of lightness, strength, and elasticity. They are also very warm, and in many cases water-proof.
- n. Something in the form of feather, or resembling nearly or remotely the standard of a feather; something made of feathers.
- n. Specifically — A plume.
- n. In founding, a thin rib cast on iron framing to strengthen it and resist bending or fracture.
- n. A slip inserted longitudinally into a shaft or arbor, and projecting so as to fit a groove in the eye of a wheel.
- n. One of two pieces of metal placed in a hole in a stone which is to be split, a wedge-shaped key or plug being driven between them for this purpose.
- n. In joinery, a projection on the edge of a board which fits into a channel on the edge of another board, in the operation of joining boards by grooving and feathering, or grooving and tonguing, as it is more commonly called.
- n. On a horse, a sort of natural frizzling of the hair, which in some places rises above the smooth coat, and makes a figure resembling the tip of an ear of wheat.
- n. A foamy spray of water thrown up and backward on each side of the cutwater of a swiftly moving vessel, or from the edge of an oar when turned horizontally. See feather-spray.
- n. The fringe of hair on the back of the legs, on the neck, or on the ears of some breeds of dogs, as setters. Also feathering
- n. In precious stones, an irregular flaw. See the extract.
- n. The feathered end or string-end of an arrow.
- n. Kind; nature; species: from the proverbial phrase “birds of a feather”—that is, of the same species.
- n. In sporting, birds collectively; fowls: as, fur, fin, and feather.
- n. Among confectioners, one of the degrees in boiling sugar, preceded by the blow, and followed by the ball.
- n. Something as light as a feather; hence, something very unimportant; a trifle.
- n. In rowing, the act of feathering. See feather, v. t., 6.
- n. Quill-feather
- n. a large pennaceous feather with a stout barrel or quill, which is or may be used for writing; a quill. The large flight-and rudder-feathers of the wings and tail are of this kind.
- To cover with feathers; hence, to cover with something resembling feathers.
- To adorn; enrich or advantage; exalt.
- To fit with a feather or feathers, as an arrow.
- To tread: said of a cock.
- To join by tonguing and grooving, as boards.
- In rowing, to turn the blade of (an oar) nearly horizontally, with the upper edge pointing toward the bow, as it leaves the water, so that the water runs off it in a feathery form, for the purpose of lessening the resistance of the air upon it, and decreasing the danger of catching the water as it is moved back into position for a new stroke.
- To have or produce the appearance or form of feather or feathers, as the ripples at the bow of a moving vessel. See feather-spray.
- To be or become feathery in appearance; appear thin or feathery by contrast.
- In rowing, to let the water drop off in a feathery spray, as the blade of an oar when turned nearly horizontally on leaving the water.
- n. In archery, a piece cut from one side of a feather, trimmed to the desired size and shape, and glued upon an arrow near the nock to improve its flight. Sometimes other material is used. Ordinarily an arrow has three feathers set at equal distances on its circumference: see
- To drop (melted metallic tin) into cold water, which has the effect of spreading it out with a feathery appearance.
- To make a quivering movement of the tail: said of dogs.
- n. A branching, hair-like structure that grows on the wings of birds that allows their wings to create lift.
- n. Long hair on lower legs of heavier horses, especially draft horses, notably the Clydesdale breed. Narrowly only the rear hair.
- v. To cover with feathers.
- v. To arrange in the manner or appearance of feathers.
- v. transitive, intransitive, rowing To rotate the oars while they are out of the water to reduce wind resistance.
- v. aeronautics To streamline the blades of an aircraft's propeller by rotating them perpendicular to the axis of the propeller when the engine is shut down so that the propeller doesn't windmill as the aircraft flies.
- v. carpentry, engineering To finely shave or bevel an edge.
- v. computer graphics To intergrade or blend the pixels of an image with those of a background or neighboring image.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. One of the peculiar dermal appendages, of several kinds, belonging to birds, as contour feathers, quills, and down.
- n. rare Kind; nature; species; -- from the proverbial phrase, “Birds of a feather,” that is, of the same species.
- n. The fringe of long hair on the legs of the setter and some other dogs.
- n. A tuft of peculiar, long, frizzly hair on a horse.
- n. One of the fins or wings on the shaft of an arrow.
- n. (Mach. & Carp.) A longitudinal strip projecting as a fin from an object, to strengthen it, or to enter a channel in another object and thereby prevent displacement sidwise but permit motion lengthwise; a spline.
- n. A thin wedge driven between the two semicylindrical parts of a divided plug in a hole bored in a stone, to rend the stone.
- n. The angular adjustment of an oar or paddle-wheel float, with reference to a horizontal axis, as it leaves or enters the water.
- v. To furnish with a feather or feathers, as an arrow or a cap.
- v. To adorn, as with feathers; to fringe.
- v. rare To render light as a feather; to give wings to.
- v. To enrich; to exalt; to benefit.
- v. To tread, as a cock.
- v. To grow or form feathers; to become feathered; -- often with
- v. colloq. To curdle when poured into another liquid, and float about in little flakes or “feathers;” .
- v. To turn to a horizontal plane; -- said of oars.
- v. To have the appearance of a feather or of feathers; to be or to appear in feathery form.
- v. join tongue and groove, in carpentry
- v. turn the oar, while rowing
- n. the light horny waterproof structure forming the external covering of birds
- v. cover or fit with feathers
- v. grow feathers
- v. turn the paddle; in canoeing
- n. turning an oar parallel to the water between pulls
- From Middle English fether, from Old English feþer, from Proto-Germanic *feþrō, from Proto-Indo-European *péth₂r̥ ~ pth₂én- (“feather, wing”), from *peth₂- (“to fly”). The Indo-European root is also the source of Greek πέτομαι (pétomai), Albanian shpend ("bird"), Latin penna, Old Armenian թիռ (tʿiṙ). (Wiktionary)
- Middle English fether, from Old English. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“It was very dark, and I knew that as our sails were set, and we bore from her, it would be difficult for her to keep us in sight, as we only presented what we call the feather-edge of our sails to her.”
“Com that the rancorous debate over the future of this seemingly innocuous civic cub catering to foreign airheads has taken a decidedly nasty turn and I´m beginning to wonder just where this anachronistic club in last feather is heading except into the mire.”
“Of course the spine of a feather is called ... the shaft.”
“These Hollywood people came out in feather capes chanting all kinds of stuff without even knowing the language!”
“Pen laughed bitterly at the word feather, and repeated it.”
“He declares openly," said Carleton, "that contra haereticos etiam vere dictos (ne dum falso et calumniose sic traductos) there is neither sentence of death nor other corporal punishment, so that in order to attract to himself a great following of birds of the name feather he publishes to all the world that here in this country one can live and die a heretic, unpunished, without being arrested and without danger.”
“Talking political heads, cue your writers: Fakih's costume features a "feather" - trimmed gold leotard with a crystal-embellished bustline and corseted lace-up back for an effect that the reigning”
“ The air seemed to sense that the feather was a thing more than its own earthly make, and rippled around it like water in a pool.”
“When we were all in nursery school, we'd be taught to sing a little ditty called "Yankee Doodle" about some weird 18th century dude, who called a feather in his cap "macaroni.”
“He declares openly," said Carleton, "that contra haereticos etiam vere dictos (ne dum falso et calumniose sic traductos) there is neither sentence of death nor other corporal punishment, so that in order to attract to himself a great following of birds of the name feather he publishes to all the world that here in this country one can live and die”
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