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[nap-kin] /ˈnæp kɪn/
a small piece of cloth or paper, usually square, for use in wiping the lips and fingers and to protect the clothes while eating.
Chiefly British. a diaper.
Scot. and North England. a handkerchief.
Scot. a kerchief or neckerchief.
Origin of napkin
1350-1400; Middle English, equivalent to nape tablecloth (< Middle French nappe < Latin mappa napkin) + -kin; cf. map Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for napkin
  • After doing a quick calculation on the back of a napkin, he said he would do so for two brothers or eight cousins.
  • Serve on a napkin, ends towards centre of dish, and garnish with parsley.
  • napkin rings are unknown in fashionable houses outside of the nursery.
  • He is said to have roughed out the original concept on a paper napkin.
  • Every new entrepreneur does a back-of-the-napkin projection of how much money they can make.
  • Perry was seen clapping, cheering and swinging a napkin the air, the magazine reported.
  • Took a couple of moments to do a few napkin calculations.
  • She wiped her eyes several times with a paper napkin.
  • My server certainly noticed: he brought me an extra napkin, handing it to me with an odd smile.
  • Then cover with a cloth napkin and let the mixture sit at room temperature for three days, undisturbed.
British Dictionary definitions for napkin


Also called table napkin. a usually square piece of cloth or paper used while eating to protect the clothes, wipe the mouth, etc; serviette
(rare) a similar piece of cloth used for example as a handkerchief or headscarf
a more formal name for nappy1
a less common term for sanitary towel
Word Origin
C15: from Old French, from nape tablecloth, from Latin mappa small cloth, towel; see map
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for napkin

early 15c., from Old French nape "tablecloth, cloth cover, towel" (from Latin mappa; see map (n.)) + Middle English -kin "little." No longer felt as a diminutive. The Old French diminutive was naperon (see apron).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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napkin in the Bible

(Gr. soudarion, John 11:44; 20:7; Lat. sudarium, a "sweat-cloth"), a cloth for wiping the sweat from the face. But the word is used of a wrapper to fold money in (Luke 19:20), and as an article of dress, a "handkerchief" worn on the head (Acts 19:12).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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