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

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 It’s World Elephant Day to honor these magnificent creatures, who still are being slaughtered for their ivory and could be extinct by the end of the next decade. Teresa M. Hanafin, BostonGlobe.com, 12 Aug. 2022 Shoppers can choose from a fleet of solid colors, including chocolate brown, aqua, and pearled ivory, all of which are available in sizes twin, full, queen, and king. Amy Schulman, Peoplemag, 18 Aug. 2022 Choose from five versatile colors, including ivory that's shown here. Alyssa Gautieri, Good Housekeeping, 27 July 2022 He and his associates were later charged with conspiracy to traffic rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory, which are together worth more than $7 million. Charmaine Patterson, Peoplemag, 18 Aug. 2022 From grapefruit-pink suits to double-breasted greatcoats in turmeric-colored cashmere and sensuous silk shirts in black or ivory, Sexton’s creations are nothing if not dramatic. Aleks Cvetkovic, Robb Report, 13 Aug. 2022 Choose between four timeless neutral leathers: black, camel, cream, and ivory. Halie Lesavage, Harper's BAZAAR, 11 Aug. 2022 The yellow, brown and ivory stripes will elevate any simple outfit with a touch of carefree, breezy island vibe. Angela Lei, Forbes, 5 May 2022 The Scream Queens star wore an ivory gown edged in lace to serve as one of the bridesmaids for designer pal Kara Smith. Alex Apatoff, Peoplemag, 8 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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

18 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ivory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ivory. Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for ivory


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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