Share this entry
napkin Syllabification: nap·kin
Pronunciation: /ˈnapkən/

Definition of napkin in English:


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, or to serve food on.
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.
paper towel;
2North American another term for sanitary napkin.
Example sentences
  • Compounds very much like it are also used in disposable diapers and sanitary napkins.
3British dated A baby’s diaper.


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.

Definition of napkin in:
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources