Origin of quilling

First recorded in 1630–40; quill + -ing1


  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

Examples from the Web for quilling

Historical Examples of quilling

British Dictionary definitions for quilling


  1. decorative craftwork in which a material such as glass, fabric, or paper is formed into small bands or rolls that form the basis of a design


    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 quilling



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

quilling 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.