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feathers

feathers, outgrowths of the skin, constituting the plumage of birds. Feathers grow only along certain definite tracts (pterylae), which vary in different groups of birds. Feathers develop from tiny projections of tissue (papillae) embedded in follicles and nourished by blood vessels in the dermis. When the feather is full grown, the blood supply is discontinued and the central shaft becomes hollow. A secretion of the thyroid gland stimulates the papilla to develop a new feather when one has been molted or pulled.

In a typical feather, barbs extend outward from the distal portion of the shaft, or rachis; smaller crosslinking barbules and hooks interlock neighboring barbs, forming a web that gives the feather both strength and flexibility. Down feathers, or plumulae, the first plumage of young birds and the protective undercoat of aquatic birds, lack these interlocking projections. Specialized feather forms are found in crests, top-knots, ruffs, and tail feathers. Bristles are modified feathers. The colors red, yellow, brown, and black are caused by pigment in the feathers. There are no blue pigments, and green and violet are rare; however, these colors, as well as iridescent effects, are caused by the reflection and diffraction of light.

Feathers are lightweight, durable, and in some cases waterproof. They have protective and decorative functions, but, aside from their role in bird flight, their most important capacity is heat retention. Feathers are believed to have evolved from reptilian scales in Mesozoic times, but little is definitely known about how they arose, and the feathers of Archaeopteryx and other early birds may have been too weak to be useful for flight. A number of feathered dinosaurs are known from the fossil record; one, Yutyrannus huali, was quite large (30 ft/9 m long) and had filamentlike feathers.

Feathers have been used by humans from ancient times for millinery and other ornamental purposes. The indiscriminate hunting of certain birds for their feathers has resulted in their near extinction; it is now prohibited by law in the United States.

See T. Hanson, Feathers (2011).

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feather

feath·er / ˈfe[voicedth]ər/ • n. any of the flat appendages growing from a bird's skin and forming its plumage, consisting of a partly hollow horny shaft fringed with vanes of barbs. ∎  (often feathers) one of these appendages as decoration. ∎  one of the feathers or featherlike vanes fastened to the shaft of an arrow or a dart. ∎  (feathers) a fringe of long hair on the legs of a dog, horse, or other animal. • v. 1. [tr.] rotate the blades of (a propeller) about their own axes in such a way as to lessen the air or water resistance. ∎  vary the angle of attack of (rotor blades). ∎  Rowing turn (an oar) so that it passes through the air edgewise: he turned, feathering one oar slowly. 2. [intr.] float, move, or wave like a feather: the green fronds feathered against a blue sky. 3. [tr.] shorten or taper the hair by cutting or trimming: my sister had her hair feathered. PHRASES: a feather in one's cap an achievement to be proud of. feather one's (own) nest make money illicitly and at someone else's expense.DERIVATIVES: feath·er·i·ness n. feath·er·y adj. ORIGIN: Old English fether, from an Indo-European root shared by Latin penna ‘feather’ and Greek pteron ‘wing.’

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"feather." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"feather." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/feather-1

"feather." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/feather-1

feather

feather a feather in one's cap something to be proud of. Originally (in the late 17th century) taken as a sign of folly, but by the mid 18th century it was acquiring its current laudatory sense.
feather one's own nest make money, usually illicitly and at someone else's expense. With reference to the habit of some birds of using feathers (their own or another bird's) to line the interior of their nests. This figurative use is recorded from the late 16th century.
show the white feather behave in a cowardly fashion (a white feather in the tail of a game bird is a mark of bad breeding). During the First World War, white feathers were sometimes sent or given to men as a sign that they should be on active service.

see also birds of a feather flock together, tar and feather.

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"feather." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"feather." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/feather

feathers

feathers The body covering of birds, formed as outgrowths of the epidermis and composed of the protein keratin. Feathers provide heat insulation, they give the body its streamlined shape, and those of the wings and tail are important in flight. Basically a feather consists of a quill, which is embedded in the skin attached to a feather follicle and is continuous with the shaft (rachis) of the feather, which carries the barbs. This basic structure is modified depending on the type of feather (see contour feathers; down feathers; filoplumes).

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"feathers." A Dictionary of Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"feathers." A Dictionary of Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/feathers

"feathers." A Dictionary of Biology. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/feathers

feather

feather OE. feðer = OS. fethara (Du. veer), OHG. fedara (G. feder), ON. fjǫðr :- Gmc. *feþrō :- IE. *petrā, f. *pet- *pt-, repr. also by Skr. pátram wing, pátati fly, Gr. pterón, ptérux wing, L. penna (:- *pet(s)nā) PEN2.
Hence vb. furnish with feathers OE.; move like a feather; present a feather edge (of an oar) to the air. XVIII. OE. ġefiðrian; from XIII (in pp.) a new formation on the sb.

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"feather." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Feather

Feather, river, 80 mi (129 km) long, rising in three forks in the Sierra Nevada, uniting N of Oroville, Calif., and flowing S into the Sacramento River, N of Sacramento, Calif. The Feather River basin was a rich source of gold in the mid-1800s. The Feather River project (1957–68), which includes Oroville Dam, furnishes central and S California with water and provides flood control, recreation, and hydroelectricity in the river basin.

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"Feather." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Feather." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/feather

feather

feather A keratinous outgrowth of the skin of birds that is highly modified for the purposes of flight, insulation, and display. Feathers can be divided into distinct types: contour feathers, down feathers, intermediate feathers, filoplumes, powder down, and bristles. They are pigmented, iridescent colours being due to scattered light from specially structured feathers. Worn feathers are annually renewed by moulting.

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"feather." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"feather." A Dictionary of Zoology. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/feather

feather

feather One of the skin appendages that makes up the plumage of birds. They are composed of the fibrous protein keratin, and provide insulation and enable flight. They are usually replaced at least once a year.

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"feather." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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feather

featherblather, foregather, gather, slather •farther, father, lather, rather •grandfather • stepfather • godfather •forefather •altogether, feather, heather, leather, nether, tether, together, weather, wether, whether •bather • sunbather •bequeather, breather •dither, hither, slither, swither, thither, whither, wither, zither •either, neither •bother, pother •Rhondda • mouther • loather •smoother, soother •another, brother, mother, other, smother, t'other •grandmother • stepmother •godmother • housemother •stepbrother • further

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