one of the large feathers of the wing or tail of a bird.
the hard, hollow, basal part of a feather. See illus. under feather.
a feather, as of a goose, formed into a pen for writing.
one of the hollow spines on a porcupine or hedgehog.
a plectrum of a harpsichord.
a roll of bark, as of cinnamon, formed in drying.
a reed or other hollow stem on which yarn is wound.
a bobbin or spool.
a toothpick.
a hollow shaft or sleeve through which another independently rotating shaft may pass.
a shaft, joined to and supported by two other shafts or machines, for transmitting motion from one to the other.
a rotating toolholder used in boring or facing internal angles.
a musical pipe, especially one made from a hollow reed.
verb (used with object)
to arrange (fabric) in flutes or cylindrical ridges, as along the edge of a garment, hem, etc.
to wind on a quill, as yarn.
to penetrate with, or as if with, a quill or quills.
to extract a quill or quills from: to quill a duck before cooking it.

1375–1425; late Middle English quil; compare Low German quiele, German Kiel

quill-like, adjective
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
quill (kwɪl)
1.  a.  any of the large stiff feathers of the wing or tail of a bird
 b.  the long hollow central part of a bird's feather; calamus
2.  a bird's feather made into a pen for writing
3.  any of the stiff hollow spines of a porcupine or hedgehog
4.  a device, formerly usually made from a crow quill, for plucking a harpsichord string
5.  angling a length of feather barb stripped of barbules and used for the body of some artificial flies
6.  a small roll of bark, esp one of dried cinnamon
7.  (in weaving) a bobbin or spindle
8.  a fluted fold, as in a ruff
9.  a hollow shaft that rotates upon an inner spindle or concentrically about an internal shaft
10.  to wind (thread, yarn, etc) onto a spool or bobbin
11.  to make or press fluted folds in (a ruff)
[C15 (in the sense: hollow reed or pipe): of uncertain origin; compare Middle Low German quiele quill]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1400, "piece of reed or hollow stem," probably related to M.H.G. kil "quill," from Low Ger. quiele, of unknown origin. Meaning "pens made from quills" is from 1550s; that of "porcupine spines" is from c.1600.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
quill   (kwĭl)  Pronunciation Key 
  1. The hollow shaft of a feather, the bottom of which attaches to the bird's skin.

  2. One of the sharp hollow spines of a porcupine or hedgehog.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


hollow, horny barrel of a bird's feather, used as the principal writing instrument from the 6th century until the mid-19th century, when steel pen points were introduced. The strongest quills were obtained from living birds in their new growth period in the spring. Only the five outer wing feathers (follicles) were considered suitable for writing; the second and third were especially preferred. Quills from the left wing were favoured because the feathers curve outward and away from a right-handed writer.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Reflection, in a time of instant messaging, seems as quaint as the quill pen
  and the flickering of candles.
Sea pens are so called for their resemblance to old-fashioned quill pens.
When you get to your seat in this beautiful courtroom, there is a handmade
  goose quill pen waiting for you at your seat.
She is writing a letter, her hand tracking a quill across a sheet of paper.
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