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[hang-ker-chif, -cheef] /ˈhæŋ kər tʃɪf, -ˌtʃif/
a small piece of linen, silk, or other fabric, usually square, and used especially for wiping one's nose, eyes, face, etc., or for decorative purposes.
a neckerchief or kerchief.
Origin of handkerchief
First recorded in 1520-30; hand + kerchief Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for handkerchief
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Let it go and tuck in your handkerchief like the rest of us.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • I was so enraged that she was not there, I wished to cover my face with my handkerchief.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • He said, 'Throw your handkerchief to whichever of us you love.'

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • I was forced to turn my face from them, and pull out my handkerchief.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • And when he had told her all, she sat silent, rolling her handkerchief in her fingers.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
British Dictionary definitions for handkerchief


/ˈhæŋkətʃɪf; -tʃiːf/
a small square of soft absorbent material, such as linen, silk, or soft paper, carried and used to wipe the nose, etc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for handkerchief

1520s, from hand + kerchief "cloth for covering the head." Thus it is a one-word contradiction in terms. By-form handkercher was in use 16c.-19c. A dropped handkerchief as a token of flirtation or courtship is attested by mid-18c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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