ivory

noun
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

If your skin happens to be sand beige or warm ivory, snag one of these for a T-zone touch-up. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Disney Finally Launched a Little Mermaid Makeup Collection — But There's a Catch," 17 Apr. 2019 The washable cover is available in taupe, ivory, or grey. Lexie Sachs, Good Housekeeping, "The 5 Best Weighted Blankets to Help You Get the Best Sleep of Your Life," 21 Nov. 2018 The badge usually includes a small portrait of the monarch painted on ivory, surrounded by diamonds, and placed over a ribbon, and is only worn at formal events, like yesterday's state dinner. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kate Middleton Just Received an Extremely Important Honor from the Queen," 24 Oct. 2018 That started to change after passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, which put new restrictions on Alaska Native subsistence hunters selling goods like raw walrus ivory, polar bear fur, and seal pelts to non-Natives. Zach Hughes, latimes.com, "Tanning seal hides on the edge of the world: A foothold in the global economy in rural Alaska," 2 May 2018 Museo delle Navi Romane The first-century Roman emperor Caligula—known for insane behavior like trying to appoint his horse to the senate—created two massive pleasure ships laden with marble, ivory, and mosaics that floated in the Lake of Nemi. Laura Itzkowitz, Condé Nast Traveler, "5 Best Day Trips from Rome," 5 Mar. 2018 The vibe was carefree and fun with the only sign of the dreaded winter being the cozy fire, which served mainly to illuminate the beautiful acrylic handbags of gleaming tortoise shell and iridescent ivory and bronze. Mai Morsch, Vogue, "Edie Parker Hosted a Colorful Cocktail Party That Made Guests Forget All About the New York Slush," 13 Feb. 2019 Also: Phoebe Philo’s last collection for Céline opened with a chocolate- and ivory-striped leather dress, which nodded to 1970s menswear. Emily Farra, Vogue, "Serenity Now: The Curious Trend of Earth Colors," 23 July 2018 Her oven backsplash was salvaged ivory-color tile and the countertops a milky onyx. Hayley Krischer, New York Times, "Leanne Ford Explores the Many Shades of White," 8 May 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

13 May 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
informal : a piano key

ivory

noun
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

ivory

noun
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

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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

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