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

Diospyros crassiflora, the ebony species found in the Congo Basin, was first traded internationally by Portuguese colonists in the 15th century, alongside ivory and slaves. Tim Mcdonnell, National Geographic, "Cameroon’s embattled ebony trees get a lifeline—from guitar maker," 17 June 2019 Linda is Alaska Native and uses northwest woods, fossil walrus ivory and beads to create her one-of-a-kind earrings and necklaces. Anchorage Daily News, "Here is what you can expect for First Friday this week," 6 June 2019 Fifteen years ago scientists unearthed a 31,000-year-old site along Russia’s Yana River, well north of the Arctic Circle, with ancient animal bones, ivory and stone tools. Brian Handwerk, Smithsonian, "Ancient DNA Reveals Complex Story of Human Migration Between Siberia and North America," 5 June 2019 The ivory and navy blue interior theme looks beautifully nautical and is punctuated by shiny gold detailing. Drew Dorian, Car and Driver, "Thought the Lexus LM Was the Most Luxe Minivan? Buick Just Said "Not Today" with GL8 Concept," 10 May 2019 So too did new raw materials: West Indian mahogany for furniture; African ivory for piano keys; South American natural rubber for erasers and balls. Jeffrey Collins, WSJ, "‘Power, Pleasure, and Profit’ Review: Self-Mastery Versus Self-Interest," 5 Oct. 2018 The Edinburgh piece, which represents one of the warders, was carved out of walrus tusk ivory to depict a fierce bearded warrior wielding both sword and shield. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "A Long-Forgotten Medieval Chess Piece Potentially Worth $1.2 Million Languished in a Drawer for Decades," 5 June 2019 The badge, which features a portrait of the Queen (and interestingly, is made out of glass rather than ivory, as was traditional for such orders) indicates the Royal Family Order. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton Wears Jewelry with Ties to Princess Diana and the Queen Mother at Tonight's State Banquet," 3 June 2019 Their shared chord of conch-shell pink, marigold, aqua, and ivory, evoking the skies of Tiepolo’s Italy as much as of the Hamptons, is so distinctive as to strongly suggest that the two paintings were part of a single gestation process. Stephen Ellis, The New York Review of Books, "Willem de Kooning: Acrobat with a Paint Brush," 1 June 2019

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

8 Jul 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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