Definition of wampum in English:



  • A quantity of small cylindrical beads made by North American Indians from quahog shells, strung together and worn as a decorative belt or other decoration or used as money.

    • ‘A wampum of dark color signaled a serious purpose, sadness, or perhaps great political importance.’
    • ‘From the early 1620s, coastal Indians supplied wampum (sacred shell beads, polished and strung in strands, belts, or sashes) to Dutch traders who exchanged it with inland natives for beaver pelts.’
    • ‘Wampum was American Indian bead money, and the purple interior of the quahog shell was used for high-denomination wampum.’
    • ‘Federal negotiators, in turn, received wampum, pipes, and sometimes weapons.’
    • ‘Three beads of wampum separating the two purple rows symbolize peace, friendship and respect.’


From Massachusett wampumpeag, literally white strings.