\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

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 But some of Lincoln's most prized possessions are in peril – including his hat, gloves, quill pen and a fan that belonged to his wife, Mary. CBS News, "Lincoln museum artifacts could go to auction due to a historic debt," 19 June 2018 The logos seem like they were hand-drawn with a large quill pen or stamped with an antique letterpress, and the boxes are made out of some material that looks tastefully recycled. Alex Delany, Bon Appetit, "Expensive Pasta Is Worth It—Here's Why," 18 June 2018 And while the quill stem did gradually migrate leftward during the ride in a slightly disconcerting fashion, the bike otherwise held up admirably. Outside Online, "Riding 100 Miles* on a 102-Year-Old Bike," 12 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

28 Aug 2018

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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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