• Benefit oneself at the expense of others
      To use one's position or resources for personal gain, often in a selfish or unethical manner, without regard for the well-being of others.

    • Pursue personal interests instead of contributing to a group or community
      To prioritize one's own needs or desires over the needs or goals of a larger group or community, often resulting in a negative impact on the group as a whole.

    • Flatter or praise oneself excessively
      To boast or promote one's own achievements or abilities in a self-serving or exaggerated manner, often with the intention of gaining attention or admiration from others.

Examples of Feather one's own nest

  • Sarah's main focus at work has shifted from helping the team succeed to finding ways to advance her own career. She's been feathering her own nest, putting herself ahead of the company's goals.

    "Feathering one's own nest" is a metaphorical expression that refers to someone prioritizing their own personal gain over the needs of others or the group as a whole. The phrase originated from the idea that birds build nests with soft materials like feathers to create a comfortable and secure environment for their young. By "feathering their own nest," people are essentially building a comfortable and secure future for themselves, often at the expense of others. In Sarah's case, she's been focusing on advancing her own career at the expense of the team's success.


This idiom is used to describe behavior that is self-centered, selfish, or unethical. It suggests that the person is only concerned with their own personal gain and is willing to exploit or deceive others in order to achieve it. The phrase can also imply a lack of accountability or responsibility towards others, as the individual is focused solely on their own interests.

The first meaning of the idiom is often used in a negative context, describing actions that harm or disadvantage others in order to benefit oneself. This could include taking advantage of a position of power or privilege, manipulating others for personal gain, or engaging in dishonest practices. The second meaning highlights the negative consequences of prioritizing personal interests over the well-being of a group or community, such as neglecting important tasks or causing division within a team.

Lastly, the third meaning of the idiom emphasizes the idea of self-promotion and vanity. It suggests that the person is overly concerned with their own image and is willing to exaggerate or manipulate the truth in order to make themselves look better. This meaning is often used in a critical or disapproving manner.

Origin of "Feather one's own nest"

The origin of this idiom is unclear, but it is believed to have originated in the 17th or 18th century. One theory suggests that it may have been inspired by the behavior of birds, who line their nests with soft feathers to make them comfortable and cozy. The phrase could have been used metaphorically to describe someone who seeks to make their own life comfortable and luxurious, even at the expense of others.

Another theory suggests that the idiom may have originated from the practice of medieval barons who would take advantage of their wealth and power to build lavish homes for themselves while their impoverished serfs were forced to live in small, simple huts. This behavior was seen as selfish and exploitative, similar to how someone would "feather their own nest."

Regardless of its exact origin, the idiom has been used for centuries to describe behavior that is self-serving and unethical. It serves as a cautionary reminder to prioritize the well-being of others and to avoid exploiting or deceiving them for personal gain.