AskDefine | Define quill

Dictionary Definition



1 pen made from a bird's feather [syn: quill pen]
2 a stiff hollow protective spine on a porcupine or hedgehog
3 any of the larger wing or tail feathers of a bird [syn: flight feather, pinion, quill feather]
4 the hollow shaft of a feather [syn: calamus, shaft]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /kwɪl/
  • Rhymes with: -ɪl


  1. The main shaft of a feather
  2. A pen made from a feather
  3. Figuratively, any pen.
    He picked up his quill and wrote a poem.
  4. A sharp pointed, barbed and easily detached needle-like structure that grows on the skin of a porcupine as a defense against predators.


sharp barbed needle-like structure that grows on the skin of a porcupine

Extensive Definition

A quill pen is made from a flight feather (preferably a primary) of a large bird, most often a goose. Quills were used as instruments for writing with ink before the metal dip pen, the fountain pen, and eventually the ball point pen came into use. The hand-cut goose quill is still a superior calligraphy tool, providing a sharp stroke and flexibility unmatched in steel pens. The shaft of the feather acts as an ink reservoir and ink flows to the tip by capillary action a metal retainer (as shown in photo top right) helps to hold the ink in place.
Common writing equipment in medieval times were the quill and parchment or paper. The quill eventually replaced the reed pen. The quill pen was used in Qumran, Judea to write some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and then introduced into Europe by around 700 AD. It was used in 1787 to write and sign the Constitution of the United States of America. The strongest quills were the primary flight feathers taken from living birds in the spring. The left wing was favored because the feathers curved outward and away when used by a right-handed writer. Goose feathers were most common; swan feathers were of a premium grade being scarcer and more expensive. For making fine lines, crow (bird) feathers were the best, and then came the feathers of the eagle, owl, hawk and turkey.
Usually the barbs are stripped off partially or completely to allow the writer to hold the pen.
A signwriter or sign painter uses a "quill" brush as a main tool. The quill brush is usually made from ox hair, which is more durable than many other artist brushes. It has a quill ferrule which attaches the hair to the brush handle and is tied together with wire.
quill in German: Federkiel#Der_Federkiel_als_Schreibger.C3.A4t
quill in French: Plume (écriture)#Plume_d.27oie_et_d.27autres_oiseaux
quill in Italian: Penna d'oca
quill in Dutch: Ganzenveer
quill in Japanese: 羽根ペン
quill in Swedish: Bläckpenna
quill in Chinese: 鵝毛筆

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1