cow·​rie | \ ˈkau̇-rē How to pronounce cowrie (audio) \
variants: or less commonly cowry
plural cowries

Definition of cowrie

: any of various marine gastropods (family Cypraeidae) that are widely distributed in warm seas and have glossy and often brightly colored shells also : the shell of a cowrie

Examples of cowrie in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Ngady Mwaash mask, with its beadwork and cowrie shell accents, can indicate the wearer’s class and rank in society. Kimi Robinson, azcentral, "A first in Phoenix: Ceremonial masks, instruments reveal African masquerade tradition," 13 Feb. 2020 Traditional troupes dressed in African cloth and cowrie beads, concluded the shows each night – a reiteration of Tassembédo’s belief that traditional dance should inform African experiments in modern dance. Clair Macdougall, Quartz Africa, "Photos: Burkina Faso’s contemporary dance festival turns the discourse away from terror," 3 Feb. 2020 As documented on Haddow’s personal blog, skulls covered with plaster to resemble living people, their eye sockets decorated with cowrie shells and other ornaments, represent just one example of secondary burial rites practiced at Çatalhöyük. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Archaeologists Unearth Beads Made of Human Teeth in Ancient Turkish City," 16 Dec. 2019 But why gold? Had history worked out differently, the dollar might have been pegged to cowrie shells, peppercorns, or giant stone disks, all of which, like gold, have served as money at one time or another. Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, "The quiet campaign to reinstate the gold standard is getting louder," 3 July 2019 Nearly eight months pregnant, Williams wears a stretchy dress with nautical stripes, her hair exquisitely cornrowed, with red and gold beads and cowries, her pearlized nails the color of pink champagne. Mario Testino, Vogue, "Serena Williams on Pregnancy, Power, and Coming Back to Center Court," 15 Aug. 2017 Nestled in their box, the cowries reminded me of a child’s marble collection. Sarah Kaplan, The Denver Post, "Are the world’s most stunning shells too beautiful for their own good?," 10 Apr. 2017 The ancient Chinese were among those who used cowrie shells, which were prized for their beauty as materials for jewelry, to make payments. National Geographic, "The Journey of Humankind: How Money Made Us Modern," 20 Mar. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cowrie.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cowrie

1662, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cowrie

Hindi & Urdu kauṛī

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Time Traveler for cowrie

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The first known use of cowrie was in 1662

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Cite this Entry

“Cowrie.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for cowrie


How to pronounce cowrie (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cowrie

: a small snail that is found in warm seas
: the shiny and often brightly colored shell of the cowrie

More from Merriam-Webster on cowrie

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cowrie Encyclopedia article about cowrie

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