"square piece of fabric folded and worn about the head," early 13c., kovrechief "piece of cloth used to cover part of the head," especially a woman's head-cloth or veil, from Anglo-French courchief, Old French couvrechief "a kerchief," literally "cover head," from couvrir "to cover" (see cover (v.)) + chief "head" (from Latin caput "head," from PIE root *kaput- "head"). From late 14c. as "piece of cloth used about the person" generally, for purposes other than covering the head; and from c. 1400 as "piece of cloth carried in the hand" to wipe the face, etc. (compare handkerchief).
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