Definition of dentalium in English:

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Pronunciation: /denˈtālēəm/

noun (plural dentalia /-lēə/)

1 another term for tooth shell. [as modifier]: dentalium shells are ideal for use with beadwork
  • Genus Dentalium, class Scaphopoda.
1.1 (usually dentalia) historical Tooth shells used as currency, especially by some American Indian peoples: he gave them handfuls of dentalia, for which his father-in-law and his brothers-in-law gave him slaves and valuable furs a white mare purchased with dentalium
More example sentences
  • At first, only dentalia shells were placed as bets.
  • One basic unit of currency was dentalia: tubular, tusk-shaped shells, often scrimshawed or intricately wrapped in black and red snakeskin.
  • Dentalia were very important to the Yurok as wealth items.


Modern Latin, from late Latin dentalis (see dental).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: den·ta·li·um

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