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[kou-ree] /ˈkaʊ ri/
the highly polished, usually brightly colored shell of a marine gastropod of the genus Cypraea, as that of C. moneta (money cowrie) used as money in certain parts of Asia and Africa, or that of C. tigris, used for ornament.
the gastropod itself.
Origin of cowrie
1655-65; < Hindi kaurī Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for cowrie
Historical Examples
  • Payment for these toothsome delicacies, it may be mentioned, is made in cowrie shells, coined money being very rarely used.

  • I know almost every island where trade can be got, and the price to a cowrie that should be paid.

    A Modern Buccaneer Rolf Boldrewood
  • In some parts of India and Africa a very small species of cowrie passes as current money.

    The Ocean World: Louis Figuier
  • They were so laden with savage riches as to be almost concealed beneath the strings of cowrie shells and bands of beads.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • There was no need to worry about food—no need to spend a cowrie at the crowded stalls.

    Kim Rudyard Kipling
  • Also, she had ten coils of dewarra (cowrie shells threaded on the midribs of the coco-nut leaf, and used as the native currency).

  • The boy then presses a cowrie on the ground with his little finger, and the girl has to take it away, which she easily does.

  • Their leathern collars are covered with cowrie shells sewn on them in various fantastic patterns.

    Bible Animals; J. G. Wood
  • Each noble represented a certain price for the townsmen, as Bambara Negroes, we are told, attach a money value to cowrie shells.

    Two Poets Honore de Balzac
  • Their dress is a short kilt of black cotton cloth, ornamented, in the case of warriors, with rows of cowrie shells.

British Dictionary definitions for cowrie


noun (pl) -ries
any marine gastropod mollusc of the mostly tropical family Cypraeidae, having a glossy brightly marked shell with an elongated opening
the shell of any of these molluscs, esp the shell of Cypraea moneta (money cowry), used as money in parts of Africa and S Asia
Word Origin
C17: from Hindi kaurī, from Sanskrit kaparda, of Dravidian origin; related to Tamil kōtu shell
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for cowrie

small shell, used as money in parts of Asia, 1660s, from Hindi and Urdu kauri, from Mahrati kavadi, from Sanskrit kaparda, perhaps related to Tamil kotu "shell."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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