Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A record-keeping device of the Inca empire consisting of a series of variously colored strings attached to a base rope and knotted so as to encode information, used especially for accounting purposes.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A recording device, used by the Incas, consisting of intricate knotted cords.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A contrivance employed by the ancient Peruvians, Mexicans, etc., as a substitute for writing and figures, consisting of a main cord, from which hung at certain distances smaller cords of various colors, each having a special meaning, as silver, gold, corn, soldiers. etc. Single, double, and triple knots were tied in the smaller cords, representing definite numbers. It was chiefly used for arithmetical purposes, and to register important facts and events.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A cord about 2 feet in length, tightly spun from variously colored threads, and having a number of smaller threads attached to it in the form of a fringe: used among the ancient Peruvians and elsewhere for recording events, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. calculator consisting of a cord with attached cords; used by ancient Peruvians for calculating and keeping records

Etymologies

American Spanish, from Quechua kipu.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Cusco-Collao Quechua khipu ("knot") (via Spanish). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • Quipu, khipu, or quipo (sometimes called talking knots) were recording devices used in the Inca Empire and its predecessor societies in the Andean region. A quipu usually consisted of colored spun and plied thread or strings from llama or alpaca hair. It also consisted of cotton cords with numeric and other values encoded by knots in a base ten positional system. Quipus may have just a few or up to 2,000 cords.

    Quipu is the Spanish spelling and the most common spelling in English. Khipu (pronounced ˈkʰipu) is the word for "knot" in Cusco Quechua (the native Inca language; the kh is an aspirated k. In most Quechua varieties, the term is kipu. (Wikipedia)

    January 18, 2009

  • plural quipus really isn't pronounced the way it looks...

    March 16, 2008