Definition of dentalium in English:



  • 1

    [as modifier] ‘dentalium shells are ideal for use with beadwork’
    another term for tooth shell
    1. 1.1historical Tooth shells used as currency, especially by some 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’
      [mass noun] ‘a white mare purchased with dentalium’
      • ‘At first, only dentalia shells were placed as bets.’
      • ‘Dentalia were very important to the Yurok as wealth items.’
      • ‘One basic unit of currency was dentalia: tubular, tusk-shaped shells, often scrimshawed or intricately wrapped in black and red snakeskin.’
      • ‘Historical accounts list the value of slaves in dentalia, or tooth shells.’


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