- noun an outgrowth of the epidermis on a bird’s body and wings providing insulation. The feathers on the wings and those forming the tail are important in flight.
Origin & History of “feather”
The concept of ‘feathers’ is closely bound up with those of ‘wings’ and ‘flying’, and not surprisingly feather belongs to a word family in which all three of these meanings are represented. Its ultimate source is the prehistoric Indo-European base *pet-, which also produced Greek ptéron ‘wing’ (as in English pterodactyl), Latin penna ‘feather, wing’ (source of English pen), and Sanskrit pátati ‘fly’. Its Germanic descendant was *fethrō, from which came German feder, Dutch veer, Swedish fjäder and English feather (itself used in the plural for ‘wings’ in Anglo-Saxon times).