To Feather One’s Nest – Idiom, Meaning & Origin

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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.

Idioms can sometimes leave you scratching your head, can’t they? If someone told you to feather your nest, would you instinctively reach for a feather duster? Probably not, but you might be super confused. My quick guide will give you a better understanding of this phrase so you don’t accidentally start stuffing your pillow with feathers!

Meaning of “To Feather One’s Nest”

To Feather Ones Nest – Idiom Meaning Origin

Feathering one’s nest doesn’t involve an actual bird or a nest of any kind, although it sounds like a lovely springtime activity, doesn’t it? We use the expression to describe someone enriching themselves, usually by unethical or dishonest means that take advantage of others. So if you catch a politician feathering their nest, they might be skimming off the budget, not taking up birdwatching.

Feather One’s Nest Origin and Etymology

Feather Ones Nest Ngram
Feather one’s nest usage trend.

The idiom feather one’s nest, like many other nature-related ones, comes from a simple observation of, well, nature. Birds are known to line their nests with soft materials to prepare for the arrival of their offspring. But humans have put a bit of a twist on it by adding the idea of self-enrichment, typically in a negative context. The phrase feather one’s nest has been used since at least the 16th century.

Synonyms for Feather One’s Nest

If you don’t feel like using an avian theme, use one of these basic alternatives for feather one’s nest.

  • Line one’s pockets
  • Make a quick buck
  • Profit unscrupulously
  • Accumulate dishonest gain
  • Grow rich dishonestly

Feather One’s Nest Idiom Sentence Examples

To Feather Ones Nest – Idiom Meaning Origin 1

Let’s see this idiom in flight with a few sentence examples I whipped up that show you how to slip it in naturally:

  • The corrupt official was found guilty of feathering his nest with public funds and was immediately arrested.
  • The CEO of our company has been feathering her nest for years at the expense of our employees.
  • It’s clear that the contractor feathered his nest by overcharging us for materials.
  • The cop feathered his nest through bribes and kickbacks from all the local shops and businesses.
  • She’s been feathering her nest for years by stealing from the company’s petty cash.
  • The manager was fired when it was discovered he’d been feathering his nest by manipulating hundreds of accounts.
  • It’s a shame how some studios feather their nests by exploiting their writers and other creators.
  • He was accused of feathering his nest during his tenure as the head of the non-profit organization.
  • The lawyer had been feathering her nest by charging exorbitant fees for simple services to seniors.
  • The trust fund baby shamefully continued to feather his nest with the profits of his parents’ hard work.

There Are Enough Feathers for Everyone

Feathering one’s nest is a fun idiom that hides a not-so-fun meaning. But now you have it in your vocabulary arsenal! We have tons of other bird-related and nature-themed idioms on our site, so check them out!