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


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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 Hand-dug over the course of five years by a crew of 2,400 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad laborers to connect Washington and Philadelphia, the tunnel opened to cheers and handkerchief-waving in 1895. Colin Campbell, baltimoresun.com, "20 years after Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel fire, long-sought expansion project poised to begin," 28 Apr. 2021 The handkerchief wasn't the only thing the Queen was said to have included in her purse in memory of her late husband. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "The Queen Reportedly Kept a Picture of Her and Prince Philip as Newlyweds in Her Purse at His Funeral," 18 Apr. 2021 Cazzu used to perform wearing a green handkerchief, a symbol of women’s rights across Latin America and the Caribbean. Julyssa Lopez, Vogue, "A New Wave of Latin Trap Stars Is Challenging Gender Stereotypes in Argentina," 8 Mar. 2021 Whether selling wine or simply drinking it, Mr. Spurrier was a debonair figure, hair perfectly coifed, a handkerchief peeking out just so from his jacket pocket. Eric Asimov, New York Times, "Steven Spurrier, Who Upended Wine World With a Tasting, Dies at 79," 16 Mar. 2021 Later, in what feels like a weird form of retaliation, Miller sneakily puts that same father's name on a handkerchief for the bride. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Netflix's Marriage or Mortgage Is Deranged—But I Can't Stop Watching," 10 Mar. 2021 Carpenter pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped his eyes. Star Tribune, "One county, worlds apart: Bridging the political divide," 24 Jan. 2021 With my face completely covered, my godmother wiped my eyes with her handkerchief. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "John McCain’s Apache Land Grab Is Finally Happening," 15 Jan. 2021 The standard size of child bandanas and handkerchief-size bandanas are 18 x 18 inches and 14 x 14 inches, respectively. Lauren Corona, chicagotribune.com, "The best bandana," 12 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for handkerchief

Time Traveler

The first known use of handkerchief was in 1530

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Statistics for handkerchief

Last Updated

3 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Handkerchief.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/handkerchief. Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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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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