white feather

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white feather

n.
A sign of cowardice.
Idiom:
show the white feather
To act like a coward.

[From the belief that a gamecock with a white feather in its tail was a poor fighter.]
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

n
1. a symbol or mark of cowardice
2. show the white feather to act in a cowardly manner
[from the belief that a white feather in a gamecock's tail was a sign of a poor fighter]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.white feather - a symbol of cowardicewhite feather - a symbol of cowardice    
symbolic representation, symbolisation, symbolization, symbol - something visible that by association or convention represents something else that is invisible; "the eagle is a symbol of the United States"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
References in classic literature ?
If anyone of them happens to be valiant about something, he need not be comforted nor carried away by that; he would show the white feather just the same before something else.