ivo·​ry | \ ˈīv-rē How to pronounce ivory (audio) , 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 The two plaques had been part of a 153-piece collection of African royal treasures given to the museum by the Perlses 30 years ago that included brass figures, carved elephant ivory, masks, jewelry and musical instruments. Helen Stoilas, CNN, 10 June 2021 Today, Rizik’s is a place of chandeliers and ivory love seats, of shopping while holding a glass of prosecco while being doted upon by stylists with luxurious accents who will never ask your size but always get a perfect fit. Washington Post, 21 June 2021 These have come to be known as the Benin Bronzes—in large part because the finest pieces were bronze busts and plaques—though Mr. Phillips notes that more were made of brass than bronze, and there were numerous ivory carvings. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 4 June 2021 Creepy dolls, a skull and ivory snake inkwell and a cape adorned with the feathers of rare birds are part of a new exhibit unveiled Friday at Glensheen Mansion. Jana Hollingsworth, Star Tribune, 3 June 2021 The color palette includes mineral blue, dusty mink and pale ivory. Emma Reynolds, Forbes, 3 June 2021 Choose from neutrals like ivory or black or bold colorways like fuchsia or gold to give your everyday summer footwear a luxe upgrade. Travel + Leisure, 3 June 2021 In a radical take on casualness, Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino introduced luxurious separates cast in neutral shades of beige, taupe and ivory, worn with shimmering silver thigh-high platform boots. WSJ, 2 June 2021 My pork chop was perfect, rendered like a two-bone golden bauble with a heart of blushing ivory. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, 6 May 2021

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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Time Traveler for ivory

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

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Last Updated

20 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ivory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ivory. Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for ivory



English Language Learners Definition of ivory

: a hard white substance that forms the tusks of elephants and other animals
: a slightly yellowish white color
informal : a piano key


ivo·​ry | \ ˈī-və-rē How to pronounce ivory (audio) , 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


ivo·​ry | \ ˈīv-(ə-)rē How to pronounce ivory (audio) \
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

More from Merriam-Webster on ivory

Nglish: Translation of ivory for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ivory for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ivory


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