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The placing of a feather in a hat has been a symbol of achievement that has arisen in several cultures, apparently independently. The English writer and traveller Richard Hansard recorded it in his Description of Hungary, 1599:

"It hath been an antient custom among them [Hungarians] that none should wear a fether but he who had killed a Turk, to whom onlie yt was lawful to shew the number of his slaine enemys by the number of fethers in his cappe."

The Native American tradition of adding a feather to the head-dress of any warrior who performed a brave act is well known.


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feather in one's cap (plural feathers in one's cap)

  1. (idiomatic) An accomplishment; particularly one that is flaunted or boasted of.
    He thinks it is quite a feather in his cap that he figured it out for himself.