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mother-of-pearl

[muhth -er-uh v-purl] /ˈmʌð ər əvˈpɜrl/
noun
1.
a hard, iridescent substance that forms the inner layer of certain mollusk shells, used for making buttons, beads, etc.; nacre.
adjective
2.
of or having the qualities of mother-of-pearl, as being iridescent or pearly:
mother-of-pearl buttons.
Origin
obsolete French
1500-1510
1500-10; compare Italian madreperla, obsolete French mère perle
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for mother of pearl

mother-of-pearl

noun
1.
a hard iridescent substance, mostly calcium carbonate, that forms the inner layer of the shells of certain molluscs, such as the oyster. It is used to make buttons, inlay furniture, etc Also called nacre, related adjective nacreous
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 mother of pearl
n.

c.1500, translating Medieval Latin mater perlarum, with the first element perhaps connected in popular imagination with obsolete mother (n.2) "dregs." Cf. Italian madreperla, French mère-perle, Dutch parelmoer, German Perlmutter, Danish perlemor.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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mother of pearl in Science
mother-of-pearl  
The hard, smooth, pearly layer on the inside of certain seashells, such as abalones and certain oysters. It is used to make buttons and jewelry. Also called nacre.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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