Definition of cowrie in English:


(also cowry)


  • 1A marine mollusc which has a glossy, brightly patterned domed shell with a long, narrow opening.

    • ‘These include Vasum, some photine buccinids, and some cypraeid cowries.’
    • ‘Here butterfish can be seen feeding on mussels, and cowries are also in evidence.’
    • ‘‘That's a mouse cowry,’ the doctor said. ‘A lovely find.’’
    • ‘I played lookout for my shutter-happy dive buddy, spotting cowries and posing with batfish as I did my safety stop.’
    • ‘There were giant leopard cowries nestled in between coral heads.’
    • ‘There are mushroom and staghorn corals, tiger cowries and batfish.’
    • ‘According to this article, the cowries are called ‘Elegba's shells,’ and are distinct from Ifa's palm nuts.’
    • ‘We found tiny cowries on the soft corals and red spider crabs on the fans.’
    • ‘There are numerous varieties of shrimps, juvenile morays, and a collection of shells including tiger cowries.’
    • ‘In addition to coconut shells, one can use cowries or other ocean shells, and even gunpowder.’
    1. 1.1The flattened yellowish shell of the money cowrie, formerly used as money in parts of Africa and the Indo-Pacific area.
      • ‘Jabali said, ‘I don't have a single cowrie - and even if I had I wouldn't give it.‘’
      • ‘The article explains how cowries were exchanged for slaves and how East African gold entered Indian Ocean circuits.’
      • ‘Almost all of the RAC's cowries went to the Slave Coast, with few arriving at any other destination.’
      • ‘Archaeologists also found a profusion of cowries and roughly 800 large bronze relics.’


Mid 17th century: from Hindi kauṛī.