Definition of napkin in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈnapkɪn/


1 (also table napkin) A square piece of cloth or paper used at a meal to wipe the fingers or lips and to protect garments: she unfolded her napkin and put it on her lap
More example sentences
  • In the last year or so a number of people have pointed out this truly disgusting trend, that an increasing number of men are using their table napkin to blow their nose.
  • It belongs in the position of a table napkin, beside a plate.
  • She was fiddling with her table napkin nervously.
2British dated A baby’s nappy.
3 (also sanitary napkin) North American another term for sanitary towel.
Example sentences
  • Compounds very much like it are also used in disposable diapers and sanitary napkins.


Late Middle English: from Old French nappe 'tablecloth' (from Latin mappa: see map) + -kin.

  • apron from Middle English:

    What we now call an apron was known in the Middle Ages as a naperon, from Old French nape or nappe ‘tablecloth’ (also the source of napkin (Late Middle English) and its shortening nappy (early 20th century)). Somewhere along the line the initial ‘n’ got lost, as people heard ‘a naperon’ and misinterpreted this as ‘an apron’. A similar process of ‘wrong division’ took place with words such as adder.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: nap¦kin

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