Ruffle someone’s feathers

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The idiom ruffle someone’s feathers has been in use for over one hundred years. We will examine the meaning of the idiom ruffle someone’s feathers, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To ruffle someone’s feathers means to annoy or irritate someone, to anger or upset someone. The idiom may be expressed as ruffle some feathers to mean that one is going to challenge authority or the status quo in order to effect change. The idiom is also expressed as getting one’s feathers ruffled, meaning one has been annoyed or irritated. The idiom to ruffle one’s feathers has been in use at least since the 1800s, if not longer. The idea behind the idiom is that a bird will ruffle its feathers when angry or aggressive. Related phrases are ruffles someone’s feathers, ruffled someone’s feathers, ruffling someone’s feathers.


“He was a very quiet person as long as you didn’t ruffle his feathers.” (The Daily Press)

If all it takes are a few follow-up questions during a mid-week press conference – not in the immediate aftermath of a close loss, mind you — to ruffle his feathers, then that thin skin will be exposed repeatedly. (USA Today)

A chicken appetizer – the Sticky Chicky – also ruffled my feathers a bit because of higher expectations. (The Journal Gazette)

I remember, when I was 17 and eating my heart out over some boy at school, it was my dad who sat me down for a ‘chat’ (my mum had already tried, but telling me “you’re a feminist until it comes to Mr X” hadn’t so much ruffled my feathers as ignited them and my claws were refusing to retract). (The Irish Examiner)

“As ranking member [Michael] Burgess pointed out, we are going to ruffle some feathers when we say that the brand companies cannot do this sort of conduct.” (Rutgers-Camden News Now)