A quill is a feather, or the narrow tube of a feather's shaft — long ago used as a writing instrument. John Hancock didn't use a ballpoint to sign the Declaration of Independence, silly. He used a quill!
The quills of a bird's feathers seem ideally designed for dipping in ink and writing on paper — they're so perfect that this type of old-fashioned pen is also called a quill. In addition to birds, there are some mammals with quills, including porcupines and hedgehogs. We know that quill comes from the Low German quiele , but beyond that its origin is a mystery.
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