A Feather in Your Cap – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Ah, the phrase a feather in one’s cap. If you’re picturing people strutting around town with feathers in their hats like some stylish bird, you’re not entirely wrong. But don’t worry, this phrase doesn’t require any actual feathers.

The feather is purely metaphorical, I swear, and the phrase itself is considered an idiom that has a much more interesting story to tell. I’ll explain its true meaning and where it came from so you have a better understanding of how to apply it.

Is It a Feather in the Cap or Hat?

Before we dive into the meaning of this phrase, let’s clear up one thing: is it a feather in the cap or a feather in the hat?

Feather in the Cap vs Feather in the Hat Ngram
Feather in the cap and feather in the hat usage trend.

Well, either version of the phrase is technically correct, but the most commonly used version is a feather in one’s cap. Besides, a feather in the cap just rolls off the tongue a bit better, doesn’t it?

The Meaning of a Feather in One’s Cap

A Feather in Your Cap Idiom Origin Meaning

No, it’s not about fashion, and you won’t need to start accessorizing your headgear with plumage. Having a feather in one’s cap is an age-old idiom that loosely means that you’ve achieved something noteworthy or accomplished a significant feat, like graduating from college or getting a major promotion at work.

It’s meant to be a symbol of achievement or recognition. So, if you’ve done something praiseworthy or impressive, feel free to metaphorically stick that feather in your cap!

In the author world, especially the indie author side of it, you have to wear many hats with many feathers. Over my fifteen years in publishing, I’ve studied and learned how to write, edit, format, market and design. Those are all feathers in my cap.

Origin of a Feather in One’s Cap

This phrase doesn’t come from a milliner’s convention, but it does have historical roots. The practice of adding a feather to a soldier’s cap or helmet dates back centuries, and you can find it in many cultures around the world.

It was typically done to recognize a soldier’s bravery or mark a significant accomplishment, like earning a higher rank or something. So, eventually, the phrase a feather in one’s cap became one we used to symbolize a notable achievement of any kind.

You might also recall the saying from an old 18th-century rhyme called Yankee Doodle. Back then, the word doodle meant stupid person or dandy. 

A Feather in One’s Cap Synonyms

In case you’re looking for some alternatives to this phrase, here are some synonyms that bear a similar meaning.

  • A notch on one’s belt
  • A badge of honor
  • A mark of distinction
  • A crowning achievement

A Feather in One’s Cap Idiom Sentence Examples

A Feather in Your Cap Idiom Origin Meaning 1

Now that you’re familiar with the phrase, let’s see how it looks with some sentence examples to give a bit of context.

  • Landing that big marketing client was definitely a feather in Jane’s cap.
  • Winning the soccer championship was a feather in the team’s cap.
  • Being asked to keynote the conference on indie publishing was a feather in Candace’s cap.
  • My promotion was definitely a feather in my cap after years of hard work for the company.

Let’s Call It Macaroni

Whenever I hear the phrase feather in my cap, I always think of that old rhyme about Yankee Doodle. But all you need to remember is that it’s supposed to symbolize learning something new, gaining a new achievement or donning a new skill. So go ahead, add some metaphorical feathers to your cap, and strut your stuff!