March 5, 2014

Case File #014.03.05: QUILT

English speakers were using the noun quilt as early as 1300, only back then it was spelled quilte (or sometimes quhilt) and referred not to a mattress cover but rather to the mattress itself. The word was derived from the Old French cuilte (sometimes spelled coute), which meant “mattress” and was itself a descendant of the Latin word culcita, meaning “a stuffed pillow or cushion for a bed or couch.” It wasn't until the late fifteenth century, at about the time that Middle English was giving way to modern English, that quilt took on its current form and also acquired the contemporary sense of “a bedspread made of two layers of cloth filled with padding (such as down or batting) and held together by ties or decorative stitching.” And the word's verb senses—“to make a quilt by sewing together layers of fabric and padding” and "to pad and stitch ornamentally, as when making a quilt”—didn't come into use until the latter half of the sixteenth century.

©2014 Michael R. Gates

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