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 Her recurring use of cowrie shells, for instance—like on her Come & Go & Come hoops—traces back to her African heritage, and touches on an affirmation that has guided her throughout life. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 23 Nov. 2020 The Ngady Mwaash mask, with its beadwork and cowrie shell accents, can indicate the wearer’s class and rank in society. Kimi Robinson, azcentral, 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, 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, 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, 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, 15 Aug. 2017 Nestled in their box, the cowries reminded me of a child’s marble collection. Sarah Kaplan, The Denver Post, 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, 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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Cite this Entry

“Cowrie.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for cowrie



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 Encyclopedia article about cowrie


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