a square, triangular, or oblong piece of wool or other material worn, especially by women, about the shoulders, or the head and shoulders, in place of a coat or hat outdoors, and indoors as protection against chill or dampness.

1655–65; < Persian shāl

shawlless, adjective
shawllike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
shawl (ʃɔːl)
a piece of fabric or knitted or crocheted material worn around the shoulders by women or wrapped around a baby
[C17: from Persian shāl]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1662, originally of a type of scarf worn in Asia, from Urdu and other Indian languages, from Pers. shal, sometimes said to be named for Shaliat, town in India where it was first manufactured. Cf. Fr. châle, Sp. chal, It. scialle, Ger. Shawl (from Eng.), Rus. shal, all ult. from the same source.
As the name of an article of clothing worn by Western women, it is recorded from 1767.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


square, oblong, or triangular protective or ornamental article of dress worn, generally by women, over the shoulders, neck, or head. It has been a common article of clothing in most parts of the world since antiquity. The period of the 19th century up to the 1870s, when the fashion silhouette changed, was known as the "shawl period" because women in Europe and America wore shawls with almost all their clothing. At the beginning of that century, shawls were a necessity in a fashionable woman's wardrobe because dresses were thin and decollete; it was a sign of gentility to wear a shawl gracefully.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The sun hits a branch and, majestically, a shawl of butterflies shakes itself
  out into a thousand flying tigers.
These show up in daytime dresses with snugly fitted jackets or widely flaring
  shawl collars.
Those came out on a team of polyglot models, each brandishing a shawl printed
  with her national flag.
He pulled out a notebook from under a thick wool shawl to show his reams of
  neat notes.
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