Definition of ivory in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈīv(ə)rē/

noun (plural ivories)

1A hard creamy-white substance composing the main part of the tusks of an elephant, walrus, or narwhal, often (especially formerly) used to make ornaments and other articles: [as modifier]: a knife with an ivory handle
More example sentences
  • South Africa and Namibia seek amendments to regulations on trade in ivory from elephant tusks which CITES banned in 1989.
  • Back then they were taking ivory from elephants and walruses.
  • Rather than being carved in elephant ivory, they have been made from a walrus tusk, a material commonly used in northern Europe for such objects at this time.
1.1An object made of ivory.
Example sentences
  • Fine and rare items, like the pristine 19th century mother-of-pearl workbox, blonde tortoiseshell tea caddy, together with snuff boxes and Oriental ivories, will bring collectors from far and near.
  • The monasteries became repositories of treasures which included paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, ivories, bronzes, reliquaries, precious stones, and textiles.
  • Another collection of lesser ivories was in the basement store of the museum.
1.2 (the ivories) informal The keys of a piano.
Example sentences
  • The sound of music filled a Warminster school on Tuesday when pupils tinkled the ivories non-stop in a piano marathon.
  • Anne Nickels tinkled the ivories for more than 12 hours as she performed all 798 hymns in the Mission Praise song book.
  • Bradman of course himself made a couple of recordings and he tinkled the ivories and people found that interesting.
1.3 (ivories) informal A person’s teeth.
Example sentences
  • This new bathroom accessory pumps out a thin stream of water that can be regulated from a trickle to a jet. When turned on full blast, the jet of water flushes out food, tickles the ivories and massages the gums, giving a user the invigorating impression that he has just had his teeth professionally cleaned.
  • Like fake nails for the teeth, these thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored material are bonded permanently to your true ivories. Teeth must be filed and prepared to accommodate these shells, an irreversible process.
2A creamy-white color.
Example sentences
  • Olivia wore an ivory satin and net dress and carried a hand-tied bouquet of burgundy calla lilies.
  • The walls were a soft ivory and the ceiling was artistic, like those in Italian churches.
  • Softness emerged in flou with various artsy embroideries, and in a divine dress made from rows of frayed silk in ivory, brown and aqua.



Pronunciation: /-rēd/
Example sentences
  • A white iron and brass queen bed wears an ivoried patchwork quilt, or sometimes the colors of Provence.
  • It brought a thought of the more gentle, ivoried fingers that had played it and now play no more.
  • Then as the rut nears, the tips get ivoried from dragging through sandy scrapes while the bases get darker from pine pitch during rubbing and mock fighting.


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French ivurie, based on Latin ebur.

  • The Latin word ebur, from which ivory derives, is related to ancient Egyptian āb or ābu ‘elephant’. Before poachers reduced elephant numbers, ivory was an important item of commerce, used for many functional items as well as for ornaments. The ‘white’ piano keys were made of ivory, and to tickle or tinkle the ivories is a familiar expression for ‘to play the piano’. An ivory tower is a state of privileged seclusion or separation from the facts and practicalities of the real world. The phrase is an early 20th-century translation of French tour d'ivoire, used in 1837 by the critic and writer Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve.

Words that rhyme with ivory


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: i·vo·ry

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