Definition of dentalium in US English:



  • 1

    Genus Dentalium, class Scaphopoda

    as modifier ‘dentalium shells are ideal for use with beadwork’
    another term for tooth shell
    • ‘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).’
    • ‘In 1868 the Teton Dakota (Oglala and Brule) wore similar breastplates of dentalium shells.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1usually dentaliahistorical Tooth shells used as currency, especially by some North 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’
      ‘a white mare purchased with dentalium’
      • ‘Dentalia were very important to the Yurok as wealth items.’
      • ‘Historical accounts list the value of slaves in dentalia, or tooth shells.’
      • ‘One basic unit of currency was dentalia: tubular, tusk-shaped shells, often scrimshawed or intricately wrapped in black and red snakeskin.’
      • ‘At first, only dentalia shells were placed as bets.’


Modern Latin, from late Latin dentalis (see dental).