white feather, to show the

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show the white feather

old-fashioned To act like or appear to be a coward; to exhibit cowardly traits or behavior. A white feather on a gamecock's tail was once considered a sign of impure breeding For all his blustery talk, the senator would showed the white feather when it actually came time to stand up against the president on the issue. He lost the respect of his community for showing the white feather when the police came through asking questions.
See also: feather, show, white
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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]
See also: feather, show, white
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

show the white feather

appear cowardly. British dated
A white feather in a game bird's tail was considered to be an indication of bad breeding.
See also: feather, show, white
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

show the white feather

To act like a coward.
See also: feather, show, white
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

white feather, to show the

To behave in a cowardly way. This term alludes to cockfighting, in which a cock with a white tail feather is deemed to be of inferior stock. It was so defined in Francis Grose’s Dictionary (1785) and has been so used ever since. “He had certainly shown the white feather,” wrote Thackeray (Pendennis, 1850).
See also: show, white
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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