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See also: Quill




From Middle English quil, which is first attested in the early 15th century with the meanings "fragment of reed" and "shaft of a feather". Cognate to (and probably derived from) Low German quiele (compare Middle High German kil (large feather, quill), which is derived from the Low German term), further etymology is unknown.

The "porcupine spike" meaning was first attested in the early 17th century.


  • IPA(key): /kwɪl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪl


quill (plural quills)

  1. The lower shaft of a feather, specifically the region lacking barbs.
  2. A pen made from a feather.
  3. (figuratively) Any pen.[1]
    He picked up his quill and wrote a poem.
  4. A sharply pointed, barbed, and easily detached needle-like structure that grows on the skin of a porcupine or hedgehog as a defense against predators.
  5. A thin piece of bark, especially of cinnamon or cinchona, curled up into a tube.
  6. The pen of a squid.
  7. (music) The plectrum with which musicians strike the strings of certain instruments.
  8. (music) The tube of a musical instrument.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Milton
      He touched the tender stops of various quills.
  9. Something having the form of a quill, such as the fold or plain of a ruff, or (weaving) a spindle, or spool, upon which the thread for the woof is wound in a shuttle.



quill (third-person singular simple present quills, present participle quilling, simple past and past participle quilled)

  1. To pierce or be pierced with quills.
    • 1966, David Francis Costello, The World of the Porcupine, J. B. Lippincott & Company, page 66:
      Coyotes, bears, and mountain lions which occasionally kill porcupines are sometimes quilled.
    • 2010, Mark Parman, A Grouse Hunter's Almanac: The Other Kind of Hunting, University of Wisconsin Press, →ISBN, page 49:
      Then one of my dogs got quilled, and it happened again a month later. After putting the dog in a headlock, yanking out several dozen quills, and spurting blood all over myself and the decking of the back porch, I at least understood his antiporcupine venom.
  2. (figuratively) To write.
    • 1939, James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, page 182:
      Nibs never would have quilled a seriph to sheepskin.
    • 1976, Ed Sanders, Investigative Poetry, City Lights (1976), page 11:
      One has only to recall that Coleridge and Wordsworth one day were lounging by the sea shore, while nearby sat an English police agent on snitch patrol prepared to rush to headquarters to quill a report about the conversation.
  3. To form fabric into small, rounded folds.
  4. To decorate with quillwork.
    • 2007, David J. Wishart, Encyclopedia of the Great Plains Indians, University of Nebraska Press (2007), →ISBN, page 32:
      Another characteristic of Plains Indians was the fairly strict division between art made and used by men and art made and used by women. Although men and women sometimes cooperated, women usually painted or quilled very balanced, controlled geometric designs on dresses, moccasins, robes, bags, and containers.
  5. (US and Canada, especially Appalachia and the Prairies, transitive) To subject (a woman who is giving birth) to the practice of quilling (blowing pepper into her nose to induce or hasten labor).


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.




  1. Imperative singular of quellen.



From Old Irish cuil (fly; flea, gnat).


quill f (genitive singular quill, plural quillyn)

  1. gnat



Manx mutation
Radical Lenition Eclipsis
quill whill guill
Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.


  • 1 cuil” in Dictionary of the Irish Language, Royal Irish Academy, 1913–76.