Definition of dentalium in English:

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Pronunciation: /dɛnˈteɪlɪəm/

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.


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

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