wampum

noun

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

Examples of wampum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Elizabeth James-Perry and Erin Genia: Wampanoag and Dakota Adornment James-Perry, honored this year with a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts, makes wampum jewelry, textiles, and maritime art directly tied to her Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal heritage. Lauren Daley, BostonGlobe.com, 25 July 2023 Some of their gear—a pair of shoes, a VHF radio, a wampum sash worth several thousand dollars—now resides on the canal’s bottom. Ben McGrath, The New Yorker, 3 July 2023 There is a really quite amazing scene when Civility and Satcheechoe take a string of wampum and wrap it around the Pennsylvania governor’s arm to symbolically pull him to Albany to meet with all the Native people who have become involved in this case. Karin Wulf, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Apr. 2021 Not only were these beads a coveted status symbol, but the powerful Mohawk of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (or Five Nations Iroquois) of what is now upstate New York, raided coastal peoples who did not furnish wampum for Haudenosaunee rituals. National Geographic, 19 Nov. 2020 Many of his pieces are horizontal, recalling the forms of early panoramic art and the woven wampum belts that are a cultural touchstone of his people. New York Times, 4 Oct. 2021 Consisting of 117 rules recorded on strings of wampum beads, the Great Law was designed to help the Haudenosaunee live in harmony. Cody Cottier, Discover Magazine, 10 Oct. 2022 Onstage with Lizzo on Tuesday, Smith wore a chic purple dress with wampum jewelry that belonged to her late mother. Brittany Bowker, BostonGlobe.com, 8 Dec. 2022 Its judgments have involved wampum belts, blackface, and the removal of a former US president from Facebook. Steven Levy, WIRED, 8 Nov. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

short for wampumpeag

First Known Use

1636, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of wampum was in 1636

Dictionary Entries Near wampum

Cite this Entry

“Wampum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wampum. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

wampum

noun
wam·​pum ˈwäm-pəm How to pronounce wampum (audio)
1
: beads of polished shells formerly used by North American Indians as money and ornaments
2
Etymology

from wamponpeag, a word in an American Indian language literally meaning "white strings"

More from Merriam-Webster on wampum

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!