Definition of dentalium in English:

dentalium

noun

  • 1

    [as modifier] ‘dentalium shells are ideal for use with beadwork because they're lightweight and easy to work with’
    another term for tusk shell
    • ‘Probably the failure of this ornament to gain acceptance among the Dakota tribes was due to their preference for and quite common use of a very similar choker of dentalium shells.’
    • ‘In 1868 the Teton Dakota (Oglala and Brule) wore similar breastplates of dentalium shells.’
    • ‘In latter times beadwork was often substituted for quillwork and dentalium shells were often used.’
    • ‘By the Cretaceous, fossils with well-defined longitudinal ridges appear, as in modern species of Dentalium and its close relatives (Family Dentaliidae).’
    1. 1.1historical 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’
      • ‘Historical accounts list the value of slaves in dentalia, or tooth shells.’
      • ‘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).

Pronunciation:

dentalium

/dɛnˈteɪlɪəm/