Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A piece of cloth or absorbent paper used at table to protect the clothes or wipe the lips and fingers.
  • n. A cloth or towel.
  • n. A sanitary napkin.
  • n. Chiefly British A diaper.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A serviette; a (usually rectangular) piece of cloth or paper used at the table for wiping the mouth and hands for cleanliness while eating.
  • n. A nappy (UK), a diaper (American).
  • n. A small scarf worn on the head by Christian woman when entering a Roman Catholic church, as a token of modesty.
  • n. A sanitary napkin.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A little towel, made of cloth or paper, esp. one for wiping the fingers and mouth at table.
  • n. A handkerchief.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A handkerchief; a kerchief of any kind.
  • n. A small square piece of linen cloth, now usually damask, used at table to wipe the lips and hands and to protect the clothes.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. garment consisting of a folded cloth drawn up between the legs and fastened at the waist; worn by infants to catch excrement
  • n. a small piece of table linen that is used to wipe the mouth and to cover the lap in order to protect clothing

Etymologies

Middle English : Old French nape, nappe, tablecloth; see nappe + -kin, -kin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English napkyn, equivalent to nape (“cloth”) +‎ -kin. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I know what you call a napkin is what we call a diaper.

    Britpick Question

  • What we call a napkin is like a specially folded paper towel they give out in restaurants that don't have linens.

    Britpick Question

  • He has a piece of cloth which he calls a napkin, with which he wipes from his lips, and from the hair on his lips, the greasy juices of the meat.

    Revolution, and Other Essays

  • "Raise that praise napkin" is never going to stop being utterly hilariously funny.

    praise.

  • The background is a paper napkin from a pack I bought in Sainsbury's (but they are much too nice to be used as napkins), I then quilted it a bit, added a few feathers, and a load of sequins.

    Teacher cards & other bits

  • I took an extra napkin from a Taco Bell for unspecified use “later.”

    Boing Boing

  • So using a roadmap as a napkin, is a MAPKIN. on 06 Sep 2007 at 12: 18 pm anne nahm

    Writer Unboxed » Blog Archive » Writer Unboxed’s CONTEST, CONTEST!

  • It's more like the "i need to grab that napkin from the footpath", or "even though that's a lady's pair of shoes resting at the bus stop, i'd better just grab them in case", or "there probably isn't even a whole drag left in that cigarette butt stuck between the cracks on the pavement, but i'll give it a shot because i'm hanging out."

    Archive 2003-11-01

  • And I said to him, 'That I will,' and he took the little napkin from the table that had R.

    Kirsteen: The Story of a Scotch Family Seventy Years Ago

  • I wrapped his head in a large kind of napkin, which is called in Rome a summer-cloth; and when we reached the place of meeting, the company had already assembled, and everybody came forward to greet me.

    The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

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