Green’s Dictionary of Slang

feather n.

1. [early 17C; mid-19C] (UK Und.) the hair.

2. [18C+] the pubic hair.

3. [late 19C–1920s] (UK tramp) a bed.

4. see bull’s feather under bull n.1

In phrases

in the feathers

[mid-19C-1900s] (US) in bed.

moult one’s feathers (v.)

[17C] to lose one’s hair through syphilis.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

feathery (adj.)

[2010s] (US campus) fashionable, stylish.

In compounds

feather bed(ding)

see separate entries.

feather driver (n.) [his quill pens]

[late 16C–early 17C] a clerk.

feather duster (n.) [resemblance]

1. [1920s] (US) a style of facial whisker.

2. [1930s] (US) an American Indian [ref. to the head-dress].

feather-legged (adj.) [i.e. one’s legs are shaking like feathers in the wind]

[1930s+] (US) terrified, extremely frightened.

feather merchant (n.) [he cannot or does not ‘pull his weight’] [1930s+] (orig. US milit.)

1. a physical weakling.

2. a foolish, silly person.

3. a shirker.

feather plucker (n.) [rhy. euph. for fucker n. (3)]

[1940s+] a general term of abuse, usu. used to refer to someone unpleasant; thus feather-plucked adj.


see under lightweight.

featherwood (n.) [play on peckerwood n.; ? she ‘flies in and out’ of the jail or is clad in metaphorical feminine feathers] [1990s+] (US prison)

1. a white prisoner’s wife or girlfriend.

2. a white female inmate.

In phrases

feather up (v.) [the action of birds]

[1930s–50s] (US) to prepare to fight.

in full feather (also in feather)

1. [late 18C–19C] (US, also in full puff) in one’s best clothes.

2. [19C] rich.

3. [early 19C+] in top condition, very cheerful.

in high feather

1. very cheerful.

2. [early 19C–1920s] rich; thus out of feather, penniless.

not a feather to fly with [orig. university use, where to be plucked was to have failed one’s examinations]

[mid-19C–1900s] ruined, penniless.

take a feather out of (v.) [the pulling out of a feather will make a bird jump]

[20C+] (Irish) to confuse, to surprise, to astonish.