Definition of cowrie in English:


(also cowry)


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

    Genus Cypraea, family Cypraeidae, class Gastropoda: numerous species, including the small money cowrie (C. moneta)

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘‘That's a mouse cowry,’ the doctor said. ‘A lovely find.’’
    • ‘Here butterfish can be seen feeding on mussels, and cowries are also in evidence.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘There are numerous varieties of shrimps, juvenile morays, and a collection of shells including tiger cowries.’
    • ‘These include Vasum, some photine buccinids, and some cypraeid cowries.’
    • ‘In addition to coconut shells, one can use cowries or other ocean shells, and even gunpowder.’
    • ‘We found tiny cowries on the soft corals and red spider crabs on the fans.’
    1. 1.1 The flattened yellowish shell of the money cowrie, formerly used as money in parts of Africa and the Indo-Pacific area.
      • ‘Archaeologists also found a profusion of cowries and roughly 800 large bronze relics.’
      • ‘Almost all of the RAC's cowries went to the Slave Coast, with few arriving at any other destination.’
      • ‘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.’


Mid 17th century: from Hindi kauṛī.