Originally the name of a small brush (and still occasionally used as such, as in the description ‘sable pencil’), the term was subsequently transferred to a wooden-cased graphite strip, presumably because of its analogous function. The latter was described as a ‘dry pencil’ in an early account (1683) by Sir John Pettus, Deputy Governor of the Royal Mines, England. The term ‘pencil’ derives from the use of a feather quill to mount the hair of the original brush and therefore has the same origin as pen. Pencil is now most commonly understood to mean a writing or drawing instrument containing a graphite ‘lead’, but usage of the term has evolved to include identically presented items containing a colour strip in place of the traditional graphite.
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