Definition of quill in English:


Line breaks: quill
Pronunciation: /kwɪl


  • 1 (also quill feather) Any of the main wing or tail feathers of a bird.
    More 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.
    More 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.
    More 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.


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  • Form (fabric) into small cylindrical folds.
    More 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.

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