Middle English ivorie, from Anglo-French ivoire, ivurie, from Latin eboreus of ivory, from ebor-, ebur ivory, from Egyptian ˒ʾb,˒ʾbw elephant, ivory
First Known Use: 13th century
Medical Definition of IVORY
: the hard creamy-white modified dentin that composes the tusks of a tusked mammal and especially the elephant
Hard white substance, a variety of dentin, that makes up the tusks of such animals as elephants, walruses, and preserved mammoths. It is prized for its beauty, durability, and suitability for carving. In ancient times it was treasured as highly as gold and precious stones. Most ivory used commercially once came from Africa; sales of ivory declined in the 20th century as the populations of African elephants shrank, and worldwide concern about endangered elephant populations have led to bans on the export and import of ivory. The once-thriving markets of Europe have shifted to South Asia, where skilled artisans, often trading illegally, carve ivory into figurines and other objects.