Share this entry

dentalium Line breaks: den|ta¦lium
Pronunciation: /dɛnˈteɪlɪəm/

Definition of dentalium in English:

noun (plural dentalia -lɪə)

1 another term for tusk shell. [as modifier]: dentalium shells are ideal for use with beadwork because they’re lightweight and easy to work with
  • Genus Dentalium, class Scaphopoda
More example sentences
  • By the Cretaceous, fossils with well-defined longitudinal ridges appear, as in modern species of Dentalium and its close relatives (Family Dentaliidae).
  • In latter times beadwork was often substituted for quillwork and dentalium shells were often used.
  • In 1868 the Teton Dakota (Oglala and Brule) wore similar breastplates of dentalium shells.
1.1 (usually dentalia) historical Tusk 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 [mass noun]: 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.

Origin

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

Definition of dentalium in:

Share this entry

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources