Ask Difference

Hanky vs. Hankie — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Maham Liaqat — Updated on April 23, 2024
Hanky and hankie both refer to a handkerchief, but "hanky" is more commonly used in American English, while "hankie" appears more in British English.
Hanky vs. Hankie — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Hanky and Hankie


Key Differences

Hanky is a casual term for handkerchief in American English, often used to describe a small, portable cloth for personal hygiene. Whereas hankie, although meaning the same, is seen more frequently in British English contexts, suggesting a slight regional preference in terminology.
Hanky typically connotes a piece of fabric used for wiping the nose or face. On the other hand, hankie might also carry a nostalgic or quaint tone, perhaps associated with older generations or more formal uses.
In usage, both terms are informal, but hanky might appear more often in everyday American conversation. While hankie could be considered slightly more colloquial and less commonly used in the U.S.
Culturally, hanky is the preferred term in modern American books and media. Whereas hankie often appears in British literature and dialogues, maintaining its presence in distinct cultural expressions.
In terms of variations, both terms can be used interchangeably without confusion in English-speaking countries. However, hankie sometimes is spelled with an additional 'e' at the end, aligning with certain British English spelling conventions.

Comparison Chart

Common Usage

American English
British English


Everyday use
Slightly quaint or formal

Frequency in Media

Common in U.S. media
Less common in U.S. media

Spelling Variants

Sometimes "hankie"

Cultural Context

Modern, casual
Often nostalgic

Compare with Definitions


A small square of cloth used for personal hygiene.
She always carries a hanky in her purse.


Sometimes associated with older or formal settings.
Grandmother pulled a lace hankie from her sleeve.


A symbol in historical or older contexts.
He waved his hanky as the train departed.


A small, often decorative cloth.
She embroidered her initials on the hankie.


A practical accessory for daily use.
His hanky came in handy when he spilled his drink.


Used similarly to a hanky.
She dabbed her eyes with her hankie.


An item for wiping the nose or face.
He pulled out a hanky to wipe his sweaty brow.


Featured in British literature.
The character in the novel clutched her hankie tightly.


Used in expressions of emotion.
The audience needed a hanky during the sad movie.


A term with a quaint or old-fashioned tone.
The hankie was scented with lavender.


A handkerchief.


A handkerchief.


(colloquial) handkerchief


A handkerchief


Same as handkerchief.


Same as handkerchief.


A square piece of cloth used for wiping the eyes or nose or as a costume accessory


A square piece of cloth used for wiping the eyes or nose or as a costume accessory

Common Curiosities

Is there a preferred term for children's use?

"Hanky" is commonly used in both American and British English when referring to children’s handkerchiefs, possibly due to its easy pronunciation.

What materials are typically used to make a hanky or hankie?

Hankies and hankies are usually made from cotton, silk, or linen, materials chosen for their softness and absorbency.

How do hanky and hankie feature in fashion?

In fashion contexts, "hankie" might refer to a decorative accessory, whereas "hanky" is considered a practical item.

How do the terms vary in historical context?

Historically, "hankie" might conjure images of Victorian elegance, while "hanky" is a more modern, utilitarian term.

How do care instructions differ for hanky and hankie?

Care instructions generally do not differ; both should be washed regularly and may require ironing to maintain their appearance.

Are hankies and hankies collectible items?

Yes, particularly older or intricately designed hankies can be collectibles, often found at antique stores or estate sales.

How do the sizes of hankies and hankies compare?

There is no standard size difference; both terms refer to a similarly sized square of cloth, though individual preferences may vary.

What are common synonyms for hanky and hankie?

Common synonyms include handkerchief, nose cloth, and kerchief, although these can vary slightly in usage and connotation.

Can hankies and hankies be personalized?

Both can be personalized with embroidery or monogramming, making them popular gifts for special occasions.

Are there any etiquette rules associated with hankies or hankies?

Traditional etiquette suggests carrying a clean hankie or hankie, especially at formal events or in situations where tears or sniffles are expected.

Is one term more popular in certain types of literature or media?

"Hankie" often appears in British literature and period dramas, while "hanky" may be seen more in contemporary American media.

What is the environmental impact of using hankies or hankies?

Using cloth hankies or hankies is environmentally friendly compared to disposable tissues, as they reduce waste and can be reused.

Do hanky and hankie have different connotations in terms of gender?

Neither term is specifically gendered, though "hankie" might be seen as more delicate or feminine due to its association with decorative uses.

How are hankies and hankies used in crafts or DIY projects?

Both are popular in crafts, used to make items like quilts, dolls, and decorative pieces, showcasing their versatility.

Do hankies and hankies have any symbolic meanings in different cultures?

In some cultures, hankies symbolize farewell or deep emotion, often used in ceremonies or as tokens of affection.

Share Your Discovery

Share via Social Media
Embed This Content
Embed Code
Share Directly via Messenger
Previous Comparison
Obtainable vs. Attainable

Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

Popular Comparisons

Trending Comparisons

New Comparisons

Trending Terms