Definition of handkerchief in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈhaŋkətʃɪf/

noun (plural handkerchiefs or handkerchieves /ˈhaŋkətʃiːvz/)

A square of cotton or other finely woven material intended for wiping one’s nose.
Example sentences
  • He sits repeatedly wiping his nose on his handkerchief, and then spreading it out on his lap like a napkin.
  • I blew my nose in a napkin and blew my nose again on his handkerchief.
  • Now, however, he was too ill to notice it - how the people in the car began to gasp and sputter, to put handkerchiefs to their noses, and transfix him with furious glances.
pocket handkerchief;
tissue, paper handkerchief
trademark Kleenex
Scottish & Northern English  napkin;
French mouchoir;
Indian  corah, Malabar, pullicate
informal hanky, nose rag, snot rag
informal, dated nose-wiper, sneezer, wipe, wiper
literary kerchief
archaic clout, muckender, monteith, fogle, foulard, stook, Barcelona


Mid 16th century: from hand + kerchief.

  • kerchief from Middle English:

    The early spelling was kerchef, from Old French cuevrechief, from couvrir ‘to cover’ and chief ‘head’. It was formerly used to describe a woman's head-dress, a type of cloth covering over the hair. The word was used meaning ‘cloth’ as the second element of handkerchief from the mid 16th century.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hand|ker¦chief

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