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 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 The flimsy cloth top might as well have been a handkerchief from your grandma’s dresser. Hannah Elliott, Bloomberg.com, "These Cars Might Be Ugly, But They’re Still a Blast to Drive," 14 Jan. 2021 Long before American cowboys sported bandanas, the European snuff user of the 18th century suffered from an embarrassing problem: Blowing his nose into a white or solid-colored handkerchief left behind dark tobacco stains. Laura Hilgers, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Global History of the Bandana," 22 Oct. 2020 Gone were the days of Rath, when a union steward could simply drop a handkerchief and signal a work stoppage. Michael Grabell, ProPublica, "As COVID-19 Ravaged This Iowa City, Officials Discovered Meatpacking Executives Were the Ones in Charge," 21 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

28 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Handkerchief.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/handkerchief. Accessed 17 Apr. 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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Comments on handkerchief

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