Tar and feather

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Tar and feather is an interesting term that has both a literal and a figurative sense. We will examine both of the definitions of tar and feather, where the term came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

In its literal sense, tar and feather refers to the process of coating someone in black, liquid tar and then rolling him in feathers as a punishment. The first known mention of tarring and feathering is around 1189 in a pronouncement from King Richard I authorizing the punishment of tarring and feathering in the navy. It is safe to assume that this means it was an official punishment used long before its official sanction. The practice of tarring and feathering survived well into the 1900s. Today, the term tar and feather is most often used as an idiom to describe a humiliating punishment or criticism. Related terms are tars and feathers, tarred and feathered, tarring and feathering.


“Because so far we see no evidence she’s done anything improper and it seems like an effort to tar and feather her to make a lie the truth the original tweet by the president.” (The Independent Journal Review)

“Steven Petrow is a Social Justice Warrior, a public predator, a devotee of political correctness, and happy to tar and feather others with false accusations.” (The Washington Post)

An employee with the Seminole County Clerk of Court office was suspended after he posted on social media that Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala should be “tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree.” (Orlando Weekly)