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

  • n. The hollow stemlike main shaft of a feather. Also called calamus.
  • n. Any of the larger wing or tail feathers of a bird.
  • n. A writing pen made from the shaft of a feather.
  • n. Music A plectrum for a stringed instrument of the clavichord type.
  • n. Music A pipe having a hollow stem.
  • n. A toothpick made from the stem of a feather.
  • n. One of the sharp hollow spines of a porcupine or hedgehog.
  • n. A spindle or bobbin around which yarn is wound in weaving.
  • n. A hollow shaft that rotates on a solid shaft when gears are engaged.
  • transitive v. To wind (thread or yarn) onto a quill.
  • transitive v. To make or press small ridges in (fabric).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The lower shaft of a feather, specifically the region lacking barbs.
  • n. A pen made from a feather.
  • n. A sharply pointed, barbed, and easily detached needle-like structure that grows on the skin of a porcupine or hedgehog as a defense against predators.
  • n. A thin piece of bark, especially of cinnamon or cinchona, curled up into a tube.
  • v. To pierce or be pierced with quills.
  • v. To write.
  • v. To form fabric into small, rounded folds.
  • v. To decorate with quillwork.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One of the large feathers of a bird's wing, or one of the rectrices of the tail; also, the stock of such a feather.
  • n. A pen for writing made by sharpening and splitting the point or nib of the stock of a feather.
  • n.
  • n. A spine of the hedgehog or porcupine.
  • n. The pen of a squid. See Pen.
  • n.
  • n. The plectrum with which musicians strike the strings of certain instruments.
  • n. The tube of a musical instrument.
  • n. Something having the form of a quill.
  • n. The fold or plain of a ruff.
  • n. A spindle, or spool, as of reed or wood, upon which the thread for the woof is wound in a shuttle.
  • n. A hollow spindle.
  • n. A roll of dried bark.
  • transitive v. To plaint in small cylindrical ridges, called quillings.
  • transitive v. To wind on a quill, as thread or yarn.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To pluck out quills from.
  • To tap, as a barrel of liquor.
  • To wind thread or yarn on quills for the loom.
  • To flute; form with small rounded ridges.
  • To insert or adjust the quills of (a harpsichord or spiuet).
  • n. The stalk of a cane or reed.
  • n. A cane or reed pipe, such as those used in Pan's pipes.
  • n. One of the large, strong feathers of geese, swans, turkeys, crows, etc., used for writing-pens and the like.
  • n. A quill pen; hence, by extension, any pen, especially considered as the characteristic instrument of a writer.
  • n. One of the comparatively large flight-feathers or remiges of any bird, without reference to the use of such feathers for making quill pens; a quill-feather: as, the quills and coverts of the wing; sometimes extended to include the similar feathers of the tail.
  • n. The hard, hollow, horny part of the scape of any feather, which does not bear barbs, and by which the feather is inserted in the skin; the calamus, as distinguished from the rachis.
  • n. One of the much enlarged and peculiarly modified hairs with which some animals, as porcupines, are provided; a large hollow spine.
  • n. A piece of small reed or other light slender tube, used by weavers to wind thread upon, and by manufacturers to hold the wound silk and other thread prepared for sale.
  • n. A plectrum of quill, as of a goose, for playing on musical instruments of the lute and zither families.
  • n. In the harpsichord, spinet, and virginal, a small piece of quill projecting from the jack of each key (digital), and so set that when the key was depressed the corresponding string was twitched or twanged by it. Various other materials were used instead of quills.
  • n. In seal-engraving, the hollow shaft or mandril of the seal-engravers' lathe, in which the cutting-tools are secured to be revolved while the stones are held against them.
  • n. In mining, a train for igniting a blast, consisting of a quill filled with slow-burning powder: it is now superseded by the safety-fuse.
  • n. The faucet of a barrel.
  • n. In pharmacy, bark in a roll, such as is often formed in drying, as of cinnamon or cinchona.
  • n. A fold of a plaited or fluted ruff or ruffle.
  • n. In machinery, a hollow shaft: a cylinder; a pipe; specifically, in a turbine, the hollow shaft which carries the revolving blades or blade-wheels.

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

  • n. the hollow spine of a feather
  • n. pen made from a bird's feather
  • n. any of the larger wing or tail feathers of a bird
  • n. a stiff hollow protective spine on a porcupine or hedgehog


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

Middle English quil.


  • Elayne knew she shouldn’t have tried to substitute a chicken feather for the quill from a magical hoopoe bird.

    Writer Unboxed » Blog Archive » The First Few Notes

  • For the next several moments, the retreating howl of the wind and the scratch of her quill were the only noises in the room.

    Much Ado About Marriage

  • Crossed quills (quill feather pens) would be a Yeoman (clerical job), and a book with a quill is a Personnelman (also clerical).

    Rank and Specialty

  • Now, it must be here understood, that ink is the great missive weapon in all battles of the learned, which, conveyed through a sort of engine called a quill, infinite numbers of these are darted at the enemy by the valiant on each side, with equal skill and violence, as if it were an engagement of porcupines.

    The Battle of the Books

  • Then we knights of the quill are a stiff-necked generation, who as seldom care to seem to doubt the worth of our writings, and their being liked, as we love to flatter more than one at a time; and had rather draw our pens, and stand up for the beauty of our works (as some arrant fools use to do for that of their mistresses) to the last drop of our ink.

    Five books of the lives, heroic deeds and sayings of Gargantua and his son Pantagruel

  • Lastly, his dress is plain, without singularity, -- with no other ornament than the quill, which is the badge of his function, stuck behind the dexter ear, and this rather for convenience of having it at hand, when he hath been called away from his desk, and expecteth to resume his seat there again shortly, than from any delight which he taketh in foppery or ostentation.

    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 14, No. 84, October, 1864

  • Consequently an instrument was made for that purpose, known as the quill-pen cutter.

    Chats on Household Curios

  • Quill-pen making was an important industry until the invention of the steel pen, and the quality of the quill was a matter of importance to the scribe.

    Chats on Household Curios

  • Instantly I was on my feet, Uncle Kit showed me the direction to go, loaned me his turkey-call quill, which, by the way, he had been teaching me how to use as we rode the day before.

    Thirty-One Years on the Plains and In the Mountains

  • That, however, taken from the thinner branches is allowed to retain its form, and is known as quill bark -- called by the natives _canuto_; that from the solid trunk is called _tabla_ or _plancha_.

    The Western World Picturesque Sketches of Nature and Natural History in North and South America


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  • "14. In pharmacy, bark in a roll, such as is often formed in drying, as of cinnamon or cinchona."

    --Century Dictionary

    January 25, 2011

  • Public School Slang: to flatter.

    April 14, 2009