Two Birds Of A Feather: The Meaning And Origin Of This Common Idiom

Birds of a feather flock together. We’ve all heard this common saying before, but what does it really mean? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the origins, definitions, and usage of the idiomatic phrase ‘two birds of a feather’.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: The phrase ‘two birds of a feather’ means two people or things that have a lot in common. It’s used to say that similar people tend to group together.

In this detailed article, we’ll cover the history and etymology of this expression, break down its definition and usage, look at some examples in literature and popular culture, and discuss why this idiom has stood the test of time and remains so popular today.

The History and Origins of ‘Two Birds of a Feather’

The idiom “two birds of a feather” is a popular expression used to describe two people who are similar or share common interests, characteristics, or beliefs. This idiom is often used to highlight the notion that individuals who are alike tend to be drawn to each other and form connections.

Earliest Known Uses in Renaissance Literature

Although the exact origin of the idiom is uncertain, it can be traced back to Renaissance literature. One of the earliest known uses of the phrase can be found in William Turner’s 1545 work, “The Rescuing of Romish Fox.”

In this book, Turner wrote, “Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together.” This can be interpreted as an early version of the idiom, suggesting that similar birds tend to flock and fly together.

In addition to Turner’s work, the idiom can also be found in various plays and writings from the Elizabethan era. For example, William Shakespeare included a similar phrase in his play “The Tempest,” when Gonzalo says, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”

This implies that people in unfortunate situations often find themselves aligning with others who are similarly affected.

Link to the Proverb ‘Birds of a Feather Flock Together’

The idiom “two birds of a feather” is closely related to the proverb “birds of a feather flock together.” This proverb suggests that individuals with similar interests, backgrounds, or characteristics often form groups or associations.

It emphasizes the natural tendency for like-minded individuals to come together and form social bonds.

The proverb can be dated back to the 16th century, with one of its earliest uses found in a collection of English proverbs by John Ray in 1670. Ray wrote, “Birds of a feather will gather together.” This proverb is often used to explain the formation of social groups, friendships, or even romantic relationships based on shared interests or similarities.

The idiom “two birds of a feather” can be seen as a variation of this proverb, focusing specifically on the connection between two individuals rather than a larger group. It highlights the idea that even in a diverse world, people often find comfort and companionship in those who share similar attributes or values.

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Definition and Meaning of ‘Two Birds of a Feather’

‘Two birds of a feather’ is an idiom that is often used to describe a situation where two people or things are similar or share common traits, interests, or characteristics. It implies that these individuals or objects are alike in some way, often in terms of their personalities, beliefs, or preferences.

This idiom suggests that when two entities have commonalities, they are more likely to be attracted to each other or form a bond.

Similarity and Commonality

When we say that two people are ‘birds of a feather,’ we are highlighting their shared qualities and interests. This idiom suggests that these two individuals have a lot in common and are likely to get along well. It could refer to similar hobbies, values, or outlooks on life.

For example, if two friends enjoy playing the same sport or have a passion for a particular type of music, we might say that they are ‘birds of a feather.’ This idiom can also be used to describe groups of people who share similar characteristics or mindsets, such as colleagues who have the same work ethic or members of a club who have similar goals.

Comparison of Like-Minded People or Things

The phrase ‘two birds of a feather’ can also be used more broadly to compare any like-minded individuals or things. It suggests that when two entities have similar traits or qualities, they are more likely to be drawn to each other or have a natural affinity.

This idiom can be applied to various contexts, such as describing two companies with similar business philosophies or two politicians who share the same ideologies. It can also be used in everyday conversations to describe situations where people with similar personalities or interests find each other and form connections.

Usage and Examples of ‘Two Birds of a Feather’

In Literature

The idiom “two birds of a feather” is a popular phrase used to describe two people who have similar characteristics, interests, or beliefs. It is often used to imply that these individuals are likely to be friends or have a close relationship due to their shared qualities.

This phrase can be found in various works of literature, where authors use it to highlight the bond between characters who share common traits.

For example, in Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice,” the characters Elizabeth Bennet and her sister Jane are described as “two birds of a feather.” They both possess intelligence, wit, and a strong sense of independence, making them kindred spirits.

This phrase emphasizes their close relationship and the understanding they have for one another.

Similarly, in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the author uses the idiom to portray the friendship between Scout and Jem Finch. The siblings are described as “two birds of a feather” due to their shared curiosity, courage, and moral values.

This phrase underscores their strong bond and the unity they exhibit throughout the story.

In Movies and TV

The idiom “two birds of a feather” is not only popular in literature but also frequently used in movies and TV shows to depict the relationship between characters. It is often employed to highlight the similarities between two individuals and how these similarities bring them together.

One notable example is the animated film “Finding Nemo,” where the characters Marlin and Dory are described as “two birds of a feather.” They both have adventurous spirits, a love for the ocean, and a determination to find Nemo.

This phrase emphasizes their compatibility and the way they complement each other throughout their journey.

In the TV series “Friends,” the characters Joey and Chandler are often referred to as “two birds of a feather.” They share a sense of humor, enjoy similar hobbies, and have a strong bond of friendship. This idiom captures their camaraderie and the connection they have as roommates and best friends.

In Everyday Speech

The idiom “two birds of a feather” is not limited to literature, movies, or TV shows – it is also commonly used in everyday speech. People often use it to describe individuals who share similar interests, personalities, or values.

For instance, when talking about two colleagues who always work well together and have a similar work ethic, someone might say, “Those two are definitely two birds of a feather!” This phrase highlights the compatibility and synergy between the two individuals.

In a social setting, if two friends have the same hobbies, such as playing a musical instrument or going hiking, someone might say, “They are like two birds of a feather.” This expression emphasizes the shared interests and the bond created through these activities.

Why This Idiom Has Stood the Test of Time

The idiom “Two Birds of a Feather” has become a popular phrase used to describe individuals who share similar characteristics, interests, or behaviors. This idiom has stood the test of time for several reasons, including the universality of the concept it represents and the conciseness and memorability of the phrase itself.

Universality of the Concept

One reason why the idiom “Two Birds of a Feather” has endured is its universality. The concept of like-minded individuals flocking together is something that can be observed in various cultures and across different time periods.

This idiom encapsulates a fundamental truth about human nature – people tend to gravitate towards others who are similar to them. Whether it is shared values, hobbies, or backgrounds, the idea of finding comfort and camaraderie with those who resemble ourselves resonates with people from all walks of life.

Multiple studies have shown that people are naturally drawn to others who are similar to them. For example, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that individuals are more likely to form friendships with others who have similar attitudes, beliefs, and values.

This innate tendency to seek out like-minded individuals contributes to the enduring appeal of the idiom.

Conciseness and Memorability of the Phrase

Another reason why the idiom “Two Birds of a Feather” has stood the test of time is its concise and memorable nature. The phrase itself is short and easy to remember, making it a convenient way to convey the idea of similarity or shared characteristics in just a few words.

Moreover, the imagery evoked by this idiom – birds of the same feather – is vivid and relatable. It paints a clear picture in the mind of the listener, making it more likely to be remembered and understood. This simplicity and clarity contribute to the idiom’s longevity and widespread usage.


In summary, ‘two birds of a feather’ is an idiomatic phrase that compares two similar or like-minded people or things. It has its roots in 16th century English literature but became more popular after being associated with the proverb ‘birds of a feather flock together’.

This succinct and vivid expression has appeared in the works of Shakespeare, Hemingway, and more, as well as in pop culture and everyday speech. ‘Two birds of a feather’ endures as an idiom because it captures the timeless truth that similarity attracts.

So next time you notice yourself drawn to someone or something that reminds you of yourself, you’ll know why!

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