The Latin word culcita, which meant ‘cushion, mattress,’ is the source of Spanish colcha, which preserves the ancient senses. The original Latin noun also evolved to Old French coi(l)te, whose Anglo-Norman counterpart became English quilt.
The Medieval Latin phrase culcita pūncta, literally ‘stitched quilt,’ became Old French coultepointe, but then under the influence of contre ‘against’ was altered to contrepointe. That passed into Middle English as countrepoint. Then another alteration took place, this time to the second element, and the result was counterpane, whose meaning is still ‘bedspread.’ Perhaps you’ve encountered counterpane in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Land of Counterpane,” which you’ll find below.
One more word that English acquired from Latin culcita is quoit, which we use in the plural, quoits, as the name of a game akin to horseshoes. That game was originally played with flat stones that people must have thought looked like little cushions.
© 2015 Steven Schwartzman
The Land of Counterpane When I was sick and lay a-bed, I had two pillows at my head, And all my toys beside me lay To keep me happy all the day. And sometimes for an hour or so I watched my leaden soldiers go, With different uniforms and drills, Among the bed-clothes, through the hills; And sometimes sent my ships in fleets All up and down among the sheets; Or brought my trees and houses out, And planted cities all about. I was the giant great and still That sits upon the pillow-hill, And sees before him, dale and plain, The pleasant land of counterpane. — Robert Louis Stevenson