Ruffle Someone’s Feathers

Meaning of Idiom ‘Ruffle Someone’s Feathers’

To ruffle someone’s feathers means to upset, annoy, or anger them. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.,3Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.

Examples Of Use

“Boy, that comment you made about deodorant really ruffled Bob’s feathers!”

“Ron seemed upset at lunch today,” said Henry. “Yeah, something Mick said really ruffled his feathers.”

Ruffle someone's feathers idiom meaning

Origin

Used since the mid-1800s, this idiom alludes to how a bird’s feathers, especially around the neck, stand upright and puff up. Birds might ruffle their feathers for different reasons, including warmth, in greeting, or even because they are ill. Some birds may also this to attract mates and show territoriality (Amazons and Cockatoos especially). This idiom originated in the mistaken belief that ruffled feathers were always a sign of agitation and anger in birds.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.