Definition of scrimshaw in US English:



[with object]
  • Adorn (whalebone, ivory, shells, or other materials) with carved or colored designs.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Some sea shells, such as abalone, have been scrimshawed and horn, particularly cattle horn, is also scrimshawed.’


  • Scrimshawed ivory or shells.

    • ‘While collectors do appreciate the potential investment value of scrimshaw, that is not usually their primary reason for acquiring it.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Right now I currently do scrimshaw and other artwork.’
    • ‘History buffs and art lovers will find much to savor including scrimshaw at this noteworthy museum.’
    • ‘Pictured below are a several scrimshaw pieces that we have SOLD from our extensive inventory of antique scrimshaw.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, there were interesting antique collectibles bought, such as scrimshaw you see once and don't see again.’


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