\ˈkwil \

Definition of quill 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : a bobbin, spool, or spindle on which filling yarn is wound

(2) : a hollow shaft often surrounding another shaft and used in various mechanical devices

b : a roll of dried bark cinnamon quills

2a(1) : the hollow horny shaft of a feather — see feather illustration

(2) : feather especially : one of the large stiff feathers of the wing or tail

b : one of the hollow sharp spines of a porcupine or hedgehog

c : pen entry 3 sense 3

3 : something made from or resembling the quill of a feather especially : a pen for writing

4 : a float for a fishing line


quilled; quilling; quills

Definition of quill (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to pierce with quills

2a : to wind (thread or yarn) on a quill

b : to make a series of small rounded ridges in (cloth)

Examples of quill in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

When selecting varieties, there's wide range of types to pick from: decorative, daisy, and low-growing cushion mums as well as early-blooming anemones, quills, and spiders. The Editors, Good Housekeeping, "How to Grow the Most Gorgeous Chrysanthemums This Fall," 9 Aug. 2018 To create quills, frame the face by pressing toothpicks into the rind, leaving enough space for eyes. Woman's Day Staff, Woman's Day, "50+ Creative Pumpkin Carving Ideas for Halloween," 25 July 2018 The other piece de resistance was a completely plumed black feather minidress that looked like a ball of exploding quills. Roxanne Robinson, The Hollywood Reporter, "Alexandre Vauthier Shows "Super Parisian" Couture Collection," 3 July 2018 Working with the Taronga Zoo in suburban Sydney, Dr. Brandis has also tested the quills of captive and wild echidnas, in the hope of developing a similar tool that could identify animals that have been poached. New York Times, "Where Do Birds Flock Together? Australians Are Mailing In Feathers to Help Find Out," 21 Mar. 2018 Porcupettes are born with soft quills that start to harden and sharpen over a few days. Kelli Bender, PEOPLE.com, "This Porcupette, a.k.a. Baby Porcupine, Might Be the Cutest Zoo Birth of 2018," 11 July 2018 The story starts with Matlack’s tools—a quill dipped in iron gall ink. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "The Science of Saving the Declaration of Independence," 3 July 2018 There are three feather quills against the blue, which symbolize communication — suiting for a Duchess who uses her voice to advocate for women's rights and other causes. Suzannah Weiss, Teen Vogue, "Meghan Markle Gets Her Own Coat of Arms," 26 May 2018 Additionally, goose feathers were the ideal quill for writing with ink. John Schandelmeier, Anchorage Daily News, "Some words on birds and their impact on Alaska and the rest of the world," 24 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'quill.' 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 quill


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for quill


Middle English quil hollow reed, bobbin; akin to Middle High German kil large feather

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Statistics for quill

Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for quill

The first known use of quill was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for quill



English Language Learners Definition of quill

: the hollow central part of a feather

: a large, stiff feather from the wing or tail of a bird

: a pen that is made from a feather


\ˈkwil \

Kids Definition of quill

1 : a large stiff feather of a bird's wing or tail

2 : the hollow tubelike part of a feather

3 : a hollow sharp spine of a porcupine or hedgehog

4 : a pen made from a feather

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More from Merriam-Webster on quill

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with quill

Spanish Central: Translation of quill

Nglish: Translation of quill for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of quill for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about quill

Comments on quill

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


a nest or breeding place

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