hand·​ker·​chief | \ ˈhaŋ-kər-chəf How to pronounce handkerchief (audio) , -(ˌ)chif, -ˌchēf\
plural handkerchiefs also handkerchieves\ ˈhaŋ-​kər-​chəfs How to pronounce handkerchieves (audio) , -​(ˌ)chifs , -​ˌchēvz , -​ˌchēfs , -​chəvz , -​(ˌ)chivz \

Definition of handkerchief

1 : a small usually square piece of cloth used for usually personal purposes (such as blowing the nose) or as a clothing accessory

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Synonyms for handkerchief


babushka, bandanna (or bandana), do-rag, kerchief, madras, mantilla

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Examples of handkerchief in a Sentence

tied a handkerchief around her head and set about cleaning out the dust-covered attic usually dries her hands on her handkerchief when there are no towels available

Recent Examples on the Web

More than 50 men — many in tuxes and holding white handkerchiefs — competed for a top prize of plane tickets to Rome. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "'Pavarotti' documentary revives memories of the opera superstar's impact on Detroit," 2 June 2019 One of my first little girl chores around the house was ironing Daddy’s handkerchiefs. Leslie Anne Tarabella, al.com, "Defend yourself with a proper hankie," 4 June 2019 While this section of the Flag Code is rarely observed, the guidelines advise against using the flag on clothing, costumes, athletic uniforms, bedding, cushions, handkerchiefs, other décor, and temporary-use items like paper napkins and boxes. Rebecca Deczynski, Good Housekeeping, "The Proper Etiquette for Flying the American Flag, Including on Memorial Day," 10 May 2019 In fact, a handkerchief played an important role in a pivotal night of his life. Stuart Green, WSJ, "In Praise of the Ever-Practical Handkerchief," 28 Feb. 2019 Dion soldiered through, still taking in each gown while dotting her eyes with a handkerchief. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Céline Dion's Reactions at Couture Fashion Shows Are More Beautiful Than Any Dress Could Be," 24 Jan. 2019 Kuizon, who has lived in the area for decades, had to hold a handkerchief over his mouth and nose while talking to a reporter, according to the AP. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Red tide along Florida's Gulf Coast leads Gov. Scott to declare state of emergency," 15 Aug. 2018 As soon as President Obama announced it, Biden reacted with shock, turned around, and was seen grabbing a handkerchief to wipe his tears. Megan Friedman, Town & Country, "President Obama Surprised a Tearful Joe Biden With the Presidential Medal of Freedom," 12 Jan. 2017 One litmus test for these campaigns recently arose in a Facebook post from Levi’s, in conjunction with its fifth Pride Collection, featuring an image of jeans with a rainbow handkerchief hanging from the back pocket. Savannah Eadens, chicagotribune.com, "Corporations need to ‘walk the walk’ before displaying Pride ads, LGBTQ Chicagoans say," 22 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'handkerchief.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of handkerchief

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for handkerchief

Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for handkerchief

The first known use of handkerchief was in 1530

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English Language Learners Definition of handkerchief

: a small cloth used for wiping your face, nose, or eyes


hand·​ker·​chief | \ ˈhaŋ-kər-chəf How to pronounce handkerchief (audio) \
plural handkerchiefs\ -​chəfs \

Kids Definition of handkerchief

: a small usually square piece of cloth used for wiping the face, nose, or eyes

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Comments on handkerchief

What made you want to look up handkerchief? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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