Old English feðer "a feather; a pen," in plural, "wings," from Proto-Germanic *fethro (source also of Old Saxon fethara, Old Norse fioþr, Swedish fjäder, Middle Dutch vedere, Dutch veder, Old High German fedara, German Feder), from PIE *pet-ra-, from root *pet- "to rush, to fly."
Feather-headed "silly" is from 1640s. Feather-duster attested by 1835. Figurative use of feather in (one's) cap attested by 1734. Birds of a feather "creatures of the same kind" is from 1580s; the same image is in Greek homopteros (variant birds of a beak is from c. 1600).
Old English fiðerian "to furnish with feathers or wings," from feðer (see feather (n.)). Meaning "to fit (an arrow) with feathers" is from early 13c.; that of "to deck, adorn, or provide with plumage" is from late 15c.
In reference to oars (later paddles, propellers, etc.), "to turn the blades in a horizontal position on lifting them from the water at the end of each stroke," to afford as little resistance as possible, it is attested from 1740, perhaps from the image of the blade turned edgewise, or from the spray of the water as it falls off (compare nautical feather-spray, that produced by the cutwater of a fast vessel). The noun in reference to this is from the verb. Meaning "to cut down to a thin edge" is from 1782, originally in woodworking. Phrase feather one's nest "enrich oneself" is from 1580s. Related: Feathered; feathering.
late 12c., wenge, "forelimb fitted for flight of a bird or bat," also the part of some insects resembling a wing in form or function, from Old Norse vængr "wing of a bird, aisle, etc." (cognate with Danish and Swedish vinge "wing"), of unknown origin, perhaps from a Proto-Germanic *we-ingjaz, suffixed form of PIE root *we- "blow" (source of Old English wawan "to blow." Replaced Old English feðra (plural) "wings" (see feather). The meaning "either of two divisions of a political party, army, etc." is first recorded c. 1400; theatrical sense is from 1790.
The slang sense of earn (one's) wings is 1940s, from the wing-shaped badges awarded to air cadets on graduation. To be under (someone's) wing "protected by (someone)" is recorded from early 13c. Phrase on a wing and a prayer is title of a 1943 song about landing a damaged aircraft.
Also petə-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to rush, to fly."
It forms all or part of: accipiter; appetence; appetite; apterous; apteryx; archaeopteryx; asymptote; centripetal; Coleoptera; compete; competent; eurypterid; feather; helicopter; hippopotamus; Hymenoptera; impetigo; impetuous; impetus; iopterous; Lepidoptera; ornithopter; panache; panne; pen (n.1) "writing implement;" pennon; peripeteia; perpetual; perpetuity; petition; petulance; petulant; pin; pinion; pinnacle; pinnate; pinniped; potamo-; potamology; propitiation; propitious; ptero-; pterodactyl; ptomaine; ptosis; repeat; symptom.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit pattram "wing, feather, leaf," patara- "flying, fleeting;" Hittite pittar "wing;" Greek piptein "to fall," potamos "river, rushing water," pteron, pteryx "feather, wing," ptilon "soft feathers, down, plume;" Latin petere "to attack, assail; seek, strive after; ask for, beg; demand, require," penna "feather, wing;" Old Norse fjöðr, Old English feðer "feather;" Old Church Slavonic pero "feather;" Old Welsh eterin "bird."
late 14c., "a feather" (especially a large and conspicuous one), from Old French plume "soft feather, down; feather bed," and directly from Latin pluma "a small soft feather, down; the first beard," from PIE root *pleus- "to pluck; a feather, fleece" (source of Old English fleos "fleece"). Meaning "a long streamer of smoke, etc." is attested from 1878.
"shaped like a feather; resembling a feather in structure," 1727, from Latin pinnatus "feathered, winged," from pinna "feather, wing" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly").