Definition of quill in English:

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Pronunciation: /kwɪl/


1 (also quill feather) Any of the main wing or tail feathers of a bird.
Example sentences
  • Outside the banquet hall there was a small oak table, upon which rested a yellowed parchment and a droopy quill of some exotic bird.
  • Throughout our period various breeds of birds were used to supply different quills, including duck, goose, swan and pheasant.
  • Each quill is conspicuously marked with black and white bands.
1.1The hollow shaft of a feather, especially the lower part or calamus that lacks barbs.
Example sentences
  • We were especially careful in excluding specimens in molt by checking all specimens for the presence of feather quills.
  • Crane genomic DNA was extracted from adult feather quills using a sodium hydroxide boiling method.
  • It has a great many tiny, very fluffy ‘miniature feathers’ and no long feathers or quills.
1.2 (also quill pen) A pen made from a main wing or tail feather of a large bird by pointing and slitting the end of the shaft: he leant over his writing desk, quill in hand
More example sentences
  • All this might make you want to toss your computer into the nearest toxic waste dump and go back to writing letters with a quill pen.
  • The film shows the surgeon teaching his students by illustrating the successful procedure he has just carried out - he uses forceps as a quill pen and the patient's blood as his ink.
  • It will retain aspects of its heritage - such as signing the loss book with a quill pen - as a way of reaffirming its long history, continuity and stability.
2The hollow sharp spines of a porcupine, hedgehog, or other spiny mammal.
Example sentences
  • These elaborately painted masks represent a pair of horned animals, each with a porcupine quill sprouting from its head.
  • An adult porcupine has approximately 30,000 quills on its body, which are replaced every year.
  • The presence of bite marks indicated social stress and porcupine quills showed that the leopard had been in constant pain.
3 (quills) another term for penne. a dish of pasta quills tossed in a spicy tomato sauce
More example sentences
  • I could certainly do something simple with pasta quills and a can of plum tomatoes.
4 (quills) US informal, dated Pan pipes.


[with object]
Form (fabric) into small cylindrical folds.
Example sentences
  • Clearly a master of her modest medium, she folds paper into facets, quills it into curlicues and cuts it into intricate, lacelike filigree.
  • It was a gift of a beautiful piece of quilled and layered paper work, along with an unbelievably neat inscription, all presented in one of the best examples of the frame-maker's craft I've seen in a long, long time.


Late Middle English (in the senses 'hollow stem' and 'shaft of a feather'): probably from Middle Low German quiele.

Words that rhyme with quill

bill, Brazil, brill, Camille, chill, cookchill, dill, distil (US distill), downhill, drill, Edgehill, Estoril, fill, freewill, frill, fulfil (US fulfill), Gill, goodwill, grill, grille, hill, ill, instil, kill, krill, mil, mill, nil, Phil, pill, quadrille, rill, Seville, shill, shrill, sill, skill, spadille, spill, squill, still, stock-still, swill, thill, thrill, till, trill, twill, until, uphill, will

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