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[pil-oh] /ˈpɪl oʊ/
a bag or case made of cloth that is filled with feathers, down, or other soft material, and is used to cushion the head during sleep or rest.
anything used to cushion the head; headrest:
a pillow of moss.
Also called lace pillow. a hard cushion or pad that supports the pattern and threads in the making of bobbin lace.
a supporting piece or part, as the block on which the inner end of a bowsprit rests.
verb (used with object)
to rest on or as on a pillow.
to support with pillows.
to serve as a pillow for:
She pillowed the child with her body.
verb (used without object)
to rest as on a pillow.
Origin of pillow
before 900; Middle English pilwe, Old English pylu < Latin pulvīnus cushion (whence also German Pfühl)
Related forms
pillowless, adjective
pillowlike, adjective
unpillowed, adjective
Can be confused
pillar, pillory, pillow.
Synonym Study
1. See cushion. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pillow
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Her lips quivered, and a big tear rolled down on the pillow.

    The Little Colonel Annie Fellows Johnston
  • He turned on his pillow and glanced towards the dressing-table.

    The Foolish Lovers St. John G. Ervine
  • Philip shook his head, and, displeased with his companion, sought his pillow.

    Night and Morning, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • And that was because a hand was being slipped cautiously, inch by inch, under my pillow.

    It Happened in Egypt C. N. Williamson
  • The old man then raised his head a little higher on the pillow.

    The Rock of Chickamauga Joseph A. Altsheler
British Dictionary definitions for pillow


a cloth case stuffed with feathers, foam rubber, etc, used to support the head, esp during sleep
Also called cushion. a padded cushion or board on which pillow lace is made
anything like a pillow in shape or function
verb (transitive)
to rest (one's head) on or as if on a pillow
to serve as a pillow for
Word Origin
Old English pylwe, from Latin pulvīnus cushion; compare German Pfühl
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 pillow

Middle English pilwe, from Old English pyle "pillow," from West Germanic *pulwi(n) (cf. Old Saxon puli, Middle Dutch polu, Dutch peluw, Old High German pfuliwi, German Pfühl), an early borrowing (2c. or 3c.) from Latin pulvinus "little cushion, small pillow," of uncertain origin. Modern spelling is from mid-15c. Pillow fight (n.) attested from 1837; slang pillow talk (n.) first recorded 1939.


1620s, from pillow (n.). Related: Pillowed; pillowing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for pillow



  1. A boxing glove (1900+ Prizefight)
  2. A base; bag, sack (1940s+ Baseball)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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