Definition of scrimshaw in English:



  • Adorn ivory or shells with carved or coloured designs:

    ‘the scrimshawed jewellery and antique furniture on sale’
    • ‘Some sea shells, such as abalone, have been scrimshawed and horn, particularly cattle horn, is also scrimshawed.’
    • ‘It has been scrimshawed and carved by the hand of this talented carver.’
    • ‘While he was scrimshawing it, he was reminded of a puzzling question which of course I don't know the answer to.’


  • [mass noun] Scrimshawed ivory or shells:

    ‘a collection of scrimshaw’
    • ‘Nonetheless, there were interesting antique collectibles bought, such as scrimshaw you see once and don't see again.’
    • ‘In their leisure time, though, whalemen often practised the art of scrimshaw, creating unique and beautiful works of art as well as practical and useful tools and implements.’
    • ‘While collectors do appreciate the potential investment value of scrimshaw, that is not usually their primary reason for acquiring it.’


Early 19th century: of unknown origin; perhaps influenced by the surname Scrimshaw.