\ ˈkwil How to pronounce quill (audio) \

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
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 Nevertheless, horses were stolen, and poor people were hanged for stealing them – or a quill pen or a bolt of cloth. David P. Barash, The Conversation, "Executions don’t deter murder, despite the Trump administration’s push," 12 Jan. 2021 Frustrated with a capricious sovereign and forced (on principle) to take a life-altering stand, Thomas Jefferson’s quill scribbled furiously. Tod Worner, National Review, "A Dangerous Imbalance: Restoring Order to a Republic in Crisis," 25 Oct. 2020 Even the cover image of a boy with a quill across his face adds to the ambiguity. Diane Scharper, National Review, "Shakespeare’s Lost Son," 20 Aug. 2020 Simple hairy filaments coat much of the body, larger veined feathers stick out from the tail, and big quill-pen-feathers line the arms, layered over each other to form a wing. Stephen Brusatte, Scientific American, "New Fossil Reveals Velociraptor Sported Feathers," 17 July 2015 In the next moments, all around me, lines were tight and various species of fish landed on the deck — lingcod, yellow-eye, black bass, even a mottled, black-and-orange, non-pelagic rockfish with venomous quills. Anchorage Daily News, "Sometimes, fishing is just what the teledoc ordered," 27 Apr. 2020 Anyone who finds that less than remarkable in the 21st century has likely never noticed that bronze tortoises are an architectural feature at the Supreme Court, where counsellors still receive a commemorative quill pen. Robert Barnes, Anchorage Daily News, "Supreme Court arguments resume next week, with all the grandeur of working from home," 30 Apr. 2020 Dineobellator possessed quills and feathers, like most known raptors, and may have performed flamboyant courtship rituals similar to some contemporary birds. Becky Ferreira, New York Times, "Fossils Show Raptors Prowled North America Late in Dinosaurs’ Era," 26 Mar. 2020 Or that, remarkably, the best-selling Playmobil figure of all time — with over 1.3 million sold since its release in 2015 — is Martin Luther, complete with quill and German Bible. Jason Wilson, Washington Post, "Playmobil’s Plan to Infiltrate Your Workplace," 23 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Visitors can view a variety of media including textiles—such as Navajo artist D.Y. Begay’s Southwest landscape painting on wool—beadwork, sculpture, photography, film and even clothing attire such as beaded and quilled Louboutin shoes. Lily Katzman, Smithsonian Magazine, "Native Women Artists Reclaim Their Narrative," 1 Apr. 2020 For six weeks last summer the DC-8 and a pair of Twin Otters similarly quilled with atmospheric-sampling instruments flew through more than 100 different columns. Kyle Dickman, Scientific American, "The Hidden Toll of Wildfires," 1 Mar. 2020 While pens, pencils, and quills still work magic on a piece of paper, writing utensils for your bullet journal can be a pain to carry around. Billy Cadden, Popular Science, "Tech-enabled notebooks that are actually better than pen and paper," 31 Jan. 2020 Visitors can browse through more than 2,000 displays in other media, including decorative gourds, metal, wood, glass, jewelry, quilled greeting cards, handmade clothing and accessories. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Master class sculptors carve creative designs with sand and water," 29 Aug. 2019

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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Time Traveler for quill

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for quill

Last Updated

24 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Quill.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quill. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce quill (audio) \

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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