See more synonyms for quill on Thesaurus.com
  1. one of the large feathers of the wing or tail of a bird.
  2. the hard, hollow, basal part of a feather.
  3. a feather, as of a goose, formed into a pen for writing.
  4. one of the hollow spines on a porcupine or hedgehog.
  5. a plectrum of a harpsichord.
  6. a roll of bark, as of cinnamon, formed in drying.
  7. a reed or other hollow stem on which yarn is wound.
  8. a bobbin or spool.
  9. a toothpick.
  10. Machinery.
    1. a hollow shaft or sleeve through which another independently rotating shaft may pass.
    2. a shaft, joined to and supported by two other shafts or machines, for transmitting motion from one to the other.
    3. a rotating toolholder used in boring or facing internal angles.
  11. a musical pipe, especially one made from a hollow reed.
verb (used with object)
  1. Textiles.
    1. to arrange (fabric) in flutes or cylindrical ridges, as along the edge of a garment, hem, etc.
    2. to wind on a quill, as yarn.
  2. to penetrate with, or as if with, a quill or quills.
  3. to extract a quill or quills from: to quill a duck before cooking it.

Origin of quill

1375–1425; late Middle English quil; compare Low German quiele, German Kiel
Related formsquill-like, adjective
Can be confusedquail quell quill
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for quill

plumage, plume, calamus, down, pinion, shaft

Examples from the Web for quill

Contemporary Examples of quill

Historical Examples of quill

British Dictionary definitions for quill


    1. any of the large stiff feathers of the wing or tail of a bird
    2. the long hollow central part of a bird's feather; calamus
  1. a bird's feather made into a pen for writing
  2. any of the stiff hollow spines of a porcupine or hedgehog
  3. a device, formerly usually made from a crow quill, for plucking a harpsichord string
  4. angling a length of feather barb stripped of barbules and used for the body of some artificial flies
  5. a small roll of bark, esp one of dried cinnamon
  6. (in weaving) a bobbin or spindle
  7. a fluted fold, as in a ruff
  8. a hollow shaft that rotates upon an inner spindle or concentrically about an internal shaft
verb (tr)
  1. to wind (thread, yarn, etc) onto a spool or bobbin
  2. to make or press fluted folds in (a ruff)

Word Origin for quill

C15 (in the sense: hollow reed or pipe): of uncertain origin; compare Middle Low German quiele quill
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 quill

c.1400, "piece of reed or hollow stem of a feather," probably related to Middle High German kil "quill," from Low German quiele, of unknown origin. Meaning "pen made from a (goose) quill" is from 1550s; that of "porcupine spine" is from c.1600.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

quill in Science


  1. The hollow shaft of a feather, the bottom of which attaches to the bird's skin.
  2. One of the sharp hollow spines of a porcupine or hedgehog.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.