Definition of cowrie in English:


(also cowry)


  • 1A marine mollusk that has a smooth, glossy, domed shell with a long narrow opening, typically brightly patterned and popular with collectors.

    • ‘‘That's a mouse cowry,’ the doctor said. ‘A lovely find.’’
    • ‘According to this article, the cowries are called ‘Elegba's shells,’ and are distinct from Ifa's palm nuts.’
    • ‘Here butterfish can be seen feeding on mussels, and cowries are also in evidence.’
    • ‘I played lookout for my shutter-happy dive buddy, spotting cowries and posing with batfish as I did my safety stop.’
    • ‘There are numerous varieties of shrimps, juvenile morays, and a collection of shells including tiger cowries.’
    • ‘There are mushroom and staghorn corals, tiger cowries and batfish.’
    • ‘We found tiny cowries on the soft corals and red spider crabs on the fans.’
    • ‘There were giant leopard cowries nestled in between coral heads.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1 The flattened yellowish shell of the money cowrie, formerly used as money in parts of Africa and the Indo-Pacific area.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Archaeologists also found a profusion of cowries and roughly 800 large bronze relics.’


Mid 17th century: from Hindi kauṛī.