Definition of white feather in English:

white feather


  • A white-colored feather used as a symbol or mark of perceived cowardice.

    • ‘Those who did not want to join the military could be targeted by people as cowards - being handed white feathers and being refused service by shops and pubs etc.’
    • ‘Even so, I feel the white feather pressing into my back every time I give in.’
    • ‘Before the white feathers begin to thump through the letter box, I am neither an appeaser nor am I a defeatist.’
    • ‘Every morning I get these emailed images of white feathers sent to me by folks who think I should sign up.’
    • ‘The film opens with explanatory titles - in the days of Olde Victorian England, cowardice was denoted by the presentation of a white feather.’
    • ‘In his book, he takes a platoon through a year of battle in the jungle undergrowth, cowardice, heroism, gallantry and the white feather.’
    • ‘Can we discuss the war against drugs without being offered the white feather?’
    • ‘Perhaps it is defensiveness, but I don't feel particularly blessed by this patriarchal society and when I read about white feathers in WWI, I find it hard to think of it as purely male oppression.’
    • ‘When young army officer Harry Feversham loses his nerve on the eve of being despatched to the Sudan, his three closest colleagues brand him a coward by sending him white feathers.’
    • ‘His friends and fiancée give him four white feathers symbolizing his cowardice.’
    • ‘His mates send him white feathers, the sign of cowardice, and his brain goes into shock.’
    • ‘Another year or so and the proponents of this public display of remembrance will be handing out white feathers to the nonconformists.’
    • ‘Tom Brash was of the latter view, and he received many insults and white feathers in the mail.’


Late 18th century: with reference to a white feather in the tail of a game bird, being a mark of bad breeding.


white feather

/ˌ(h)wīt ˈfeT͟Hər/