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scrim·​shaw ˈskrim-ˌshȯ How to pronounce scrimshaw (audio)
scrimshawed; scrimshawing; scrimshaws

transitive verb

: to carve or engrave into scrimshaw

intransitive verb

: to produce scrimshaw


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: any of various carved or engraved articles made originally by American whalers usually from baleen or whale ivory
: scrimshawed work
: the art, practice, or technique of producing scrimshaw

Examples of scrimshaw in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
But only humans, with our ability to scrimshaw meaning onto the most mundane activities, turn walking into an occasion for pious celebration. Timothy Farrington, WSJ, 30 Mar. 2023 Among them: Ivory tusks, nearly 25 scrimshawed whale teeth, and two mounted walrus skulls, a store employee told the Anchorage Daily News on Saturday. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, 9 Apr. 2018
The Northwest Arctic Borough Assembly chambers, adorned with antlers and a scrimshaw walrus tusk, served as the nerve center for the search with Clement Sr. acting as spokesperson. Kyle Hopkins, ProPublica, 11 Nov. 2023 Duke Riley started out making maritime crafts, like sailor’s valentines and scrimshaws, entirely out of shells, bones and other natural materials that washed ashore on the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and greater New York. Siobhan Reid, USA TODAY, 30 July 2023 Out on the high seas, despite cramped and filthy conditions, rampant scurvy, omnipresent rats, and the threat of tar-and-feathering, a skilled sailor left to his own devices might have occasion to carve out a fine pornographic scrimshaw on sea ivory. Cintra Wilson, The New York Review of Books, 17 Dec. 2020 From leather work and life-size bronze statues to intricate paintings on wasp-nest paper, scrimshaw and jewelry, his varied artistic creations reflect his unique talents and affinity with the natural world. New York Times, 26 July 2021 Such scrimshaws were often made by New England whalers. Palm Beach Post, USA TODAY, 28 Dec. 2019 Buying walrus tusk carvings or engravings (also known as scrimshaw) is legal—but only if the art was done by Alaska natives. National Geographic, 14 Apr. 2016

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'scrimshaw.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



origin unknown

First Known Use


circa 1821, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


circa 1846, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of scrimshaw was circa 1821

Dictionary Entries Near scrimshaw

Cite this Entry

“Scrimshaw.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


: carved or engraved articles made originally by American whalers usually from baleen or whale teeth


origin unknown

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