handkerchief (n.)

1520s, from hand + kerchief, originally "cloth for covering the head," but since Middle English used generally as "piece of cloth used about the person." A curious confluence of words for "hand" and "head." By-form handkercher was in use 16c.-19c. A dropped handkerchief as a token of flirtation or courtship is attested by mid-18c.

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