“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow. “ Charlotte Brontë
Pillows have been in use since a long time. Already around 7,000 BC wealthy people in Mesopotamia used pillows. Those pillows were nothing like the soft ones we know now, but were made of stone and were carved in a half-moon shape to support the neck. The purpose of using a pillow was to keep insects from crawling into mouths, noses and ears.
In Ancient Egypt pillows, made of wood or stone, were used to hold and protect the head, since it was seen as an important spiritual and life center of the body.
The Chinese also used pillows, but made them from stone, wood, bamboo, bronze, jade and porcelain and were decorated elaborately. Although they knew how to make soft pillows, they believed that those would steal energy and vitality from the body.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans used softer pillows that were made of cloth and stuffed with feathers, straw or reeds. They were usually used by upper classes.
During the Middle Ages in Europe pillows were seen as a status symbol and were mostly used by the upper classes. When Henry VIII became King of England pillows were regarded as a sign of weakness and he banned the use of pillows for anyone except pregnant women. So pillows weren´t widely used until the industrial revolution when mass production of textiles made pillows more affordable.
Nowadays pillows are often filled with foam, synthetic fibers, feathers or down (the layer of fine feathers under the tougher exterior feathers), or in Asia with buckwheat. In Asia there are other kinds of pillows than the square or rectangular ones, like the dakimura in Japan, which is a long hug pillow/ body pillow. They are also known as Dutch wife and are associated with a love pillow, pillows with life-size pictures of anime characters or porn stars in suggestive positions. In Indonesia a hug pillow is known as a guling and in the Philippines as an abrazador (from Spanish abrazar, to hug).
a bag filled with soft material that is used as a cushion usually for the head of a person who is lying down (source: Merriam Webster).
The English pillow comes from Middle English pilwe, from Old English pyle, pillow, from West Germanic *pulwi(n), an early borrowing from Latin pulvinus, little cushion/small pillow, of uncertain origin.
Dutch kussen and Italian cuscino come from Old French coissin, seat cushion, from Vulgar Latin *coxinum from Latin coxa, hip/thigh, or from Latin culcita, mattress.
Spanish almohada has Arabic origins (like many Spanish words starting with al) and comes from Andalucian Arabic al-mujadda, from Standard Arabic mijadda, cushion/pillow, from the root jadd, side/cheek (from the act of putting your cheek down or rest on your side).
Pillow in other languages:
Dutch: het kussen
Spanish: el almohada
Italian: il cuscino