Definition of ivory in English:



mass noun
  • 1A hard creamy-white substance composing the main part of the tusks of an elephant, walrus, or narwhal, often (especially formerly) used to make ornaments and other articles.

    as modifier ‘a dagger with an ivory handle’
    • ‘He was also accused of killing thousands of elephants for their tusks and smuggling ivory and sandalwood worth millions of dollars.’
    • ‘Those involved in the trade can make millions of rupiah from the sale of the bones, tusks, ivory and fur of the animals.’
    • ‘The rebels are believed to be eating and selling hippo meat and taking the animals' teeth for ivory.’
    • ‘Since the ban on the trade in ivory in 1989, elephant populations in Africa have generally stabilised and in some areas are increasing.’
    • ‘While he declines to provide specifics until the data are published, he says elephant poaching for ivory has become a serious threat to the species.’
    • ‘One of the most famous archaeological finds in Scotland are the Lewis Chessmen, made from walrus ivory and dating from the 12 th century.’
    • ‘Back then they were taking ivory from elephants and walruses.’
    • ‘Walrus ivory is derived from the male animal and usually has a much smaller cross-section.’
    • ‘Major problems confronting CITES have resulted from the highly lucrative trade in the ivory from tusks of elephants.’
    • ‘Currently, Namibia has over 40 tonnes of ivory, mostly from elephants killed in other countries and seized in Namibia while in transit.’
    • ‘Rather than being carved in elephant ivory, they have been made from a walrus tusk, a material commonly used in northern Europe for such objects at this time.’
    • ‘At last, my fingers slipped across the warm ivory of the gun handle, and I ripped it out from its hiding spot beneath the linens.’
    • ‘The handle was made of ivory, and the design was intricate.’
    • ‘South Africa and Namibia seek amendments to regulations on trade in ivory from elephant tusks which CITES banned in 1989.’
    • ‘In June 1989, the U.S. government imposed a ban on commercial importation of African elephant ivory into the country.’
    • ‘Walruses were killed for three centuries for their oil, skin, and ivory from their tusks.’
    • ‘Ivory-producing states argue that the sale of legal ivory can offset the considerable costs associated with elephants.’
    • ‘The colour of ivory differs markedly from creamy white to a rusty brown, especially if it has been exposed to light, or treated with a stain.’
    • ‘Today, of course, ivory is hard to find and almost prohibitively expensive.’
    • ‘He said there were not many captive elephants in Thailand with decent sized tusks to provide legal ivory to the market.’
    1. 1.1count noun An object made of ivory.
      • ‘Many pieces of priceless ivories, sculptures and gold coins were also sold to unscrupulous foreign dealers.’
      • ‘The possibility that this small subset of ivories was produced in a single workshop contrasts with their broad distribution, highlighting the extent to which these portable items may have traveled.’
      • ‘A corpus of stone and metal sculpture in the round, relief stelae, metal plaques, ivories, and cylinder seals, all predominately small in size, establishes the parameters for an indigenous Levantine tradition.’
      • ‘What is certain is that the sculptors who worked on them had access to late Roman ivories and Sasanian metalwork, which provided the inspiration for their decorative schemes.’
      • ‘In her Scurved posture, draperies gathered to one side of her body, we recognize the Gothic ivories and stone portal figures that were her ancestors.’
      • ‘Lost are the Kunduz Hoard and the Bagram Treasure - looted rather than destroyed because coins and ivories, well known from catalogue records, continue to turn up on the illicit art market.’
      • ‘In addition, the museum features important collections of porcelain, enamels, ivories, arms, tapestries and furniture.’
      • ‘The monasteries became repositories of treasures which included paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, ivories, bronzes, reliquaries, precious stones, and textiles.’
      • ‘Conservation work is needed on three main groups of objects - important antiquities from the public displays, ivories and other items.’
      • ‘The manuscripts, ivories and metalworking of the new Empire also reinvented classical art, in particular the accurate depiction of the human figure and an interest in the vine scroll and plant ornament beloved of the Romans.’
      • ‘The Ife head, the Igbo Ukwu castings, the Benin bronzes, the Afro-Portuguese ivories, the Kuba king figures, and many other old friends have now returned to the British Museum in these spacious and airy galleries.’
      • ‘The ivories are introduced by a group of ancient port maps and manuscripts, which represent some of the earliest Western depictions of the African continent and its in habitants.’
      • ‘Another collection of lesser ivories was in the basement store of the museum.’
      • ‘Here, one can find anything and everything from the likes of monumental archaic Chinese bronzes to Byzantine ivories or medieval sculpture and Delft, maiolica and porcelain, tribal art, rare books, manuscripts, drawings and prints.’
      • ‘Fine and rare items, like the pristine 19th century mother-of-pearl workbox, blonde tortoiseshell tea caddy, together with snuff boxes and Oriental ivories, will bring collectors from far and near.’
      • ‘Many of these Carolingian ivories probably did not depend directly on the Munich panel, as the arrangement quickly became the Carolingian standard.’
    2. 1.2the ivoriesinformal The keys of a piano.
      ‘Derek tinkled the ivories for us’
      • ‘Anne Nickels tinkled the ivories for more than 12 hours as she performed all 798 hymns in the Mission Praise song book.’
      • ‘The sound of music filled a Warminster school on Tuesday when pupils tinkled the ivories non-stop in a piano marathon.’
      • ‘Bradman of course himself made a couple of recordings and he tinkled the ivories and people found that interesting.’
      • ‘Cameron Chu Whistler’s own piano man tickles the ivories with classics and smooth rolling favourites.’
    3. 1.3ivoriesinformal A person's teeth.
      • ‘Like fake nails for the teeth, these thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored material are bonded permanently to your true ivories. Teeth must be filed and prepared to accommodate these shells, an irreversible process.’
      • ‘This new bathroom accessory pumps out a thin stream of water that can be regulated from a trickle to a jet. When turned on full blast, the jet of water flushes out food, tickles the ivories and massages the gums, giving a user the invigorating impression that he has just had his teeth professionally cleaned.’
  • 2The creamy-white colour of ivory.

    as modifier ‘an ivory silk blouse’
    • ‘Colours this season are ivory, camel, many shades of brown, red, burgundy, moss and olive green, and, of course, black.’
    • ‘If you wish to wear warm colours, ivory, orange, cream, bright yellow and green, purple are good choices.’
    • ‘The walls were a soft ivory and the ceiling was artistic, like those in Italian churches.’
    • ‘Olivia wore an ivory satin and net dress and carried a hand-tied bouquet of burgundy calla lilies.’
    • ‘Wearing a heavily-embroidered ivory dress featuring veil and tiara, Majella also stopped to thank well wishers.’
    • ‘Their nests are a bed of feathers which are arranged on the ground and the larger-than-vulture bird lays two eggs at a time, ivory white in colour, add the Park authorities.’
    • ‘The bride wore an ivory strapless satin dress with a sweetheart bodice, shoulder-length veil, full skirt and long train embroidered with baby pearls and sequins.’
    • ‘Another interesting car is Tudor Coupe from Skoda Auto that excels in creativity with dynamic design and ivory coloured interiors.’
    • ‘Softness emerged in flou with various artsy embroideries, and in a divine dress made from rows of frayed silk in ivory, brown and aqua.’
    • ‘The bride wore an ivory off-the-shoulder gown with embroidery and pearl detail on the back, a full-length train and a shoulder-length veil.’
    • ‘She wore an ivory princess-line dress and carried a bouquet of cream roses.’
    colourless, unpigmented, undyed, bleached, natural
    View synonyms


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French ivurie, based on Latin ebur.