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See more synonyms for napkin on Thesaurus.com
  1. a small piece of cloth or paper, usually square, for use in wiping the lips and fingers and to protect the clothes while eating.
  2. sanitary napkin.
  3. Chiefly British. a diaper.
  4. Scot. and North England. a handkerchief.
  5. Scot. a kerchief or neckerchief.
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Origin of napkin

1350–1400; Middle English, equivalent to nape tablecloth (< Middle French nappe < Latin mappa napkin) + -kin; cf. map
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for napkin


  1. Also called: table napkin a usually square piece of cloth or paper used while eating to protect the clothes, wipe the mouth, etc; serviette
  2. rare a similar piece of cloth used for example as a handkerchief or headscarf
  3. a more formal name for nappy 1
  4. a less common term for sanitary towel
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Word Origin

C15: from Old French, from nape tablecloth, from Latin mappa small cloth, towel; see map
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

Word Origin and History for napkin


early 15c., from Old French nape "tablecloth, cloth cover, towel" (from Latin mappa; see map (n.)) + Middle English -kin "little." No longer felt as a diminutive. The Old French diminutive was naperon (see apron).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper