Definition of ivory in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘South Africa and Namibia seek amendments to regulations on trade in ivory from elephant tusks which CITES banned in 1989.’
    • ‘Currently, Namibia has over 40 tonnes of ivory, mostly from elephants killed in other countries and seized in Namibia while in transit.’
    • ‘He was also accused of killing thousands of elephants for their tusks and smuggling ivory and sandalwood worth millions of dollars.’
    • ‘Today, of course, ivory is hard to find and almost prohibitively expensive.’
    • ‘One of the most famous archaeological finds in Scotland are the Lewis Chessmen, made from walrus ivory and dating from the 12 th century.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Those involved in the trade can make millions of rupiah from the sale of the bones, tusks, ivory and fur of the animals.’
    • ‘The handle was made of ivory, and the design was intricate.’
    • ‘Walrus ivory is derived from the male animal and usually has a much smaller cross-section.’
    • ‘The rebels are believed to be eating and selling hippo meat and taking the animals' teeth for ivory.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Back then they were taking ivory from elephants and walruses.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Since the ban on the trade in ivory in 1989, elephant populations in Africa have generally stabilised and in some areas are increasing.’
    • ‘He said there were not many captive elephants in Thailand with decent sized tusks to provide legal ivory to the market.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Major problems confronting CITES have resulted from the highly lucrative trade in the ivory from tusks of elephants.’
    • ‘In June 1989, the U.S. government imposed a ban on commercial importation of African elephant ivory into the country.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1[count noun]An object made of ivory.
      • ‘Another collection of lesser ivories was in the basement store of the museum.’
      • ‘Many of these Carolingian ivories probably did not depend directly on the Munich panel, as the arrangement quickly became the Carolingian standard.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In addition, the museum features important collections of porcelain, enamels, ivories, arms, tapestries and furniture.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 her Scurved posture, draperies gathered to one side of her body, we recognize the Gothic ivories and stone portal figures that were her ancestors.’
      • ‘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 pieces of priceless ivories, sculptures and gold coins were also sold to unscrupulous foreign dealers.’
      • ‘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 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.’
    2. 1.2informal The keys of a piano.
      ‘Derek tinkled the ivories for us’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Anne Nickels tinkled the ivories for more than 12 hours as she performed all 798 hymns in the Mission Praise song book.’
    3. 1.3informal A person's teeth.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2The creamy-white colour of ivory.

    [as modifier] ‘an ivory silk blouse’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Softness emerged in flou with various artsy embroideries, and in a divine dress made from rows of frayed silk in ivory, brown and aqua.’
    • ‘She wore an ivory princess-line dress and carried a bouquet of cream roses.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Wearing a heavily-embroidered ivory dress featuring veil and tiara, Majella also stopped to thank well wishers.’
    • ‘Colours this season are ivory, camel, many shades of brown, red, burgundy, moss and olive green, and, of course, black.’
    • ‘Olivia wore an ivory satin and net dress and carried a hand-tied bouquet of burgundy calla lilies.’
    • ‘Another interesting car is Tudor Coupe from Skoda Auto that excels in creativity with dynamic design and ivory coloured interiors.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    colourless, unpigmented, undyed, bleached, natural
    View synonyms


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