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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n. pl.) the footprints of birds left in snow

The footprints and tracks left by birds and other creatures in fresh snow—or, for that matter, in wet mud, sand, or anywhere else where they can leave an imprint—are known as feetings.

That appears to be an old word from the dialects of East Anglia in particular, with the English Dialect Dictionary pinpointing it to east Suffolk specifically.

Although birds’ footprints seems to be the usual sense here, that’s by no means the end of the story, as there’s evidence of this word—and various regionalized forms of it, like footings, fettings and feetens—being used of other creatures too, including horses, hunting quarries, vermin, rats and mice, and even people.

Hares prefer ... the rush marshes, the thickly cropped wastes where the rushes grow in scattered islets in a sea of soft, withered white grass ... In these rush marshes, in great rush-tussocks, you will find the moist and cool forms marked with their ‘feetings’, and littered with wool, signs of recent fights and amatory struggles.
Peter Henry Emerson, Birds, Beasts and Fishes of the Norfolk Broadland (1895)

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