ivory

noun
ivo·​ry | \ ˈīv-rē, ˈī-və-rē\
plural ivories

Definition of ivory 

1a : the hard creamy-white modified dentine that composes the tusks of a tusked mammal (such as an elephant, walrus, or narwhal)
b : a tusk that yields ivory
2 : a variable color averaging a pale yellow
3 slang : tooth
4 : something (such as a piano key) made of ivory or of a similar substance

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Other Words from ivory

ivory adjective

The History of Ivory

A hard white substance that is a variety of dentin, ivory 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, but this trade declined in the 20th century as the populations of African elephants shrank, and increasing worldwide concern about endangered elephant populations led to bans on the export and import of ivory. The once-thriving markets of Europe have shifted to southeast Asia, where skilled artisans, often trading illegally, carve ivory into figurines and other objects.

Examples of ivory in a Sentence

a carved piece of ivory

Recent Examples on the Web

As Royal Central speculates, the change in material is likely related to Prince William's fight to end the ivory trade. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton Stuns in a Sparkling Jenny Packham Gown and the Lover's Knot Tiara," 4 Dec. 2018 Royal Central speculates the change may be a result of Prince William's fight to end the ivory trade. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton Just Received an Extremely Important Honor from the Queen," 24 Oct. 2018 Mlima’s Tale, your new play at the Public Theater in New York City, is about an elephant trapped in the international ivory trade. Eben Shapiro, Time, "Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Lynn Nottage on Her New Play, the Browning of America and Animal Rights," 17 May 2018 And in Europe, people started representing animals in art around the same time, such as on figurines carved in mammoth ivory from Germany. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "The world’s oldest figurative drawing depicts a wounded animal," 9 Nov. 2018 That silence disguised a grim tale of slave labor, torture, beatings and maimings—all in the cause of increasing the harvest of wild rubber and ivory. J.s. Marcus, WSJ, "A Museum Rethinks Its Mission," 9 Nov. 2018 Paint the white liquid latex ivory, then — yup — go nuts with the fake blood. Zoë Weiner, Teen Vogue, "The Scariest Halloween Makeup Tutorials," 8 Oct. 2018 So the beachgoers dance happily along the shore, and the old man tickles the ivories, and finally, the camera pans over to reveal Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, and Piglet enjoying the sun as well. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Christopher Robin’s thoroughly charming post-credits scene, explained," 3 Aug. 2018 Since their launch in 2014, Canines for Conservation has completed over 200 busts of poached merchandise, homing in on ivory elephant tusks, pangolin scales, rhinoceros horns and more with 90 percent accuracy. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "It’s Pooches vs. Poachers in the Fight Against Wildlife Smugglers," 22 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ivory.' 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 ivory

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ivory

Middle English ivorie, from Anglo-French ivoire, ivurie, from Latin eboreus of ivory, from ebor-, ebur ivory, from Egyptian ʾ̹b, ʾ̹bw elephant, ivory

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Statistics for ivory

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ivory

The first known use of ivory was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for ivory

ivory

noun

English Language Learners Definition of ivory

: a hard white substance that forms the tusks of elephants and other animals

: a slightly yellowish white color

: a piano key

ivory

noun
ivo·​ry | \ ˈī-və-rē, ˈīv-rē\
plural ivories

Kids Definition of ivory

1 : a hard creamy-white material that forms the tusks of mammals (as elephants)
2 : a creamy white color

ivory

noun
ivo·​ry | \ ˈīv-(ə-)rē \
plural ivories

Medical Definition of ivory 

: the hard creamy-white modified dentin that composes the tusks of a tusked mammal and especially the elephant

Other Words from ivory

ivory adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on ivory

Spanish Central: Translation of ivory

Nglish: Translation of ivory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ivory for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ivory

Comments on ivory

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