wam·​pum | \ ˈwäm-pəm How to pronounce wampum (audio) \

Definition of wampum

1 : beads of polished shells strung in strands, belts, or sashes and used by North American Indians as money, ceremonial pledges, and ornaments
2 dated, informal : money

Synonyms for wampum


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Examples of wampum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Prior to 1652, New England settlers used coins from various European countries, along with wampum made from shells, as currency. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 30 Nov. 2021 Big Chief Chop-a-lot protects Atlanta’s steaming pile of wampum. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Oct. 2021 In thinking about oyster shells, Michelson reflected on the cultural history of shells in Native art, from abalone jewelry to wampum belts used for diplomacy and incorporating hundreds of tiny shells. New York Times, 4 Oct. 2021 Thomas, 31, was surprised with the award, presented with a medallion and a handcrafted, traditional wampum, a blue necklace made with shells, after the final regular season game, the Suns’ 84-64 victory over Atlanta. Dom Amore, courant.com, 19 Sep. 2021 They were also used to make decorative wampum beads. Larry Bleiberg, USA TODAY, 22 May 2021 One item from the 1680s, a 26-inch wampum belt made of animal hide, glass and shell beads, is said to have been a gift to William Penn, the city’s founder, from a chieftain of the local Lenape tribe. Peter Saenger, WSJ, 2 Apr. 2021 Two portraits of Lenape chieftains hanging above the wampum belt come from the 1730s, when William Penn was long dead and a questionable treaty had taken substantial land from the tribe. Peter Saenger, WSJ, 2 Apr. 2021 The tribute would have taken the form of wampum, or shell beads, that New England Indians manufactured from local quahog (in the case of purple beads) and periwinkle and whelk (in the case of white beads). National Geographic, 19 Nov. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wampum.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of wampum

1636, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for wampum

short for wampumpeag

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Dictionary Entries Near wampum



wampum belt

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Cite this Entry

“Wampum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wampum. Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for wampum


wam·​pum | \ ˈwäm-pəm How to pronounce wampum (audio) \

Kids Definition of wampum

: beads made of shells and once used for money or ornament by North American tribes of indigenous people

More from Merriam-Webster on wampum

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about wampum


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