Definitions

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

  • n. Any of various tropical marine gastropods of the family Cypraeidae, having glossy, often brightly marked shells, some of which are used as currency in the South Pacific and Africa.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A gastropod of the family Cypraeidae common to the Indian Ocean.
  • n. The pyriform shell, of the cowrie, especially of the species money cowry (Cypraea moneta), formerly used as money in some areas.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Same as kauri.
  • n. A marine shell of the genus Cypræa.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. See cowry.

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

  • n. any of numerous tropical marine gastropods of the genus Cypraea having highly polished usually brightly marked shells

Etymologies

Hindi kauṛī, from Sanskrit kapardikā, diminutive of kapardaḥ, shell, of Dravidian origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Hindi  (kaurī) (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The first currency to be used this way was something called the cowrie shell, a seashell common in the Pacific and Indian oceans that was used for trading primarily in Africa and Asia.

    Not Your Parents’ Money Book

  • The cowrie is the most widely and longest used currency in history.

    Yahoo! Answers: Latest Questions

  • Economists generally take for granted, if only tacitly, a teleological view of money's historical development, according to which it first takes the "primitive" form of mundane commodities such as cowrie shells and cacao seeds, and then advances through various stages, culminating in the national fiat monies most economies rely upon today. offers a spirited rebuttal to this naively "whiggish" perspective.

    EconLog

  • Others have padlocks, wooden pegs or cowrie shells attached to them for symbolic purposes.

    Voodoo Still Casts Its Spell

  • Porcelain After the Chinese began transforming kaolin clay into fire-hardened, gleaming white vessels about 1,800 years ago, the Italians dubbed the style porcellana , or porcelain, because it reminded them of shiny cowrie shells.

    The China Factor

  • Her hair was jet black that day, black as any night, so the cowrie shells woven into her braids looked like a sky full of stars.

    Cowrie Shells

  • “You were all so busy arguing, you barely noticed the cowrie shells in my hair!”

    Cowrie Shells

  • "It is a wahine squid. shall now sing to you the song of the cowrie shell, the red cowrie shell that we used as a bait for the squid —"

    THE WATER BABY

  • A garter of white cowrie shells encircled one leg just below the knee.

    CHAPTER IX

  • Kalash women - who, legend says, are part-fairy, part-human - wear black gowns, and headgear decked out with cowrie shells, buttons and crowned with large colored feathers.

    The Kalash Tribe Of Pakistan (PHOTOS)

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