Where Did the Word “Handkerchief” Come From and What Does It Mean In French?

When fifteenth-century French sailors brought back linen head coverings worn by Chinese field workers as protection from the sun, they called them couvrechef, or “head covering,” which when Anglicized became kerchief.

Because they were carried in the hand, they became hand kerchiefs.

Women began giving scented handkerchiefs to suitors, which the suitors then tucked under their sleeves in a ritual known as wearing his heart on his sleeve.

And that’s how the Handkerchief got its name.

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