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[purl] /pɜrl/
a smooth, rounded bead formed within the shells of certain mollusks and composed of the mineral aragonite or calcite in a matrix, deposited in concentric layers as a protective coating around an irritating foreign object: valued as a gem when lustrous and finely colored.
Compare cultured pearl.
something resembling this, as various synthetic substances for use in costume jewelry.
something similar in form, luster, etc., as a dewdrop or a capsule of medicine.
something precious or choice; the finest example of anything:
pearls of wisdom.
a very pale gray approaching white but commonly with a bluish tinge.
a pearl-handled revolver.
Printing. a 5-point type.
Also called epithelial pearl. Pathology. a rounded mass of keratin occurring in certain carcinomas of the skin.
verb (used with object)
to adorn or stud with or as with pearls.
to make like pearls, as in form or color.
verb (used without object)
to dive, fish, or search for pearls.
to assume a pearllike form or appearance.
resembling a pearl in form or color.
of or relating to pearls:
pearl diving.
set with a pearl or pearls or covered or inlaid with pearls or mother-of-pearl:
a pearl necklace.
having or reduced to small, rounded grains.
cast pearls before swine, to offer or give something of great value to those incapable of appreciating it:
She read them Shakespeare but it was casting pearls before swine.
Origin of pearl1
1300-50; Middle English perle < Middle French < Italian or assumed Vulgar Latin *perla (> German Perle, Old English pærl), for Latin *pernula (> Portuguese perola, perhaps Old Saxon përula), diminutive of Latin perna sea mussel
Related forms
pearler, noun
pearlish, adjective
pearllike, adjective


[purl] /pɜrl/
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), noun
purl1 .


[purl] /pɜrl/
a town in central Mississippi.
a female given name. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for pearl
  • And there are sumptuous jewels, among them a glorious salamander pendant, its body made of a fat baroque pearl.
  • Foliage and arching growth suggest the related spirea, but pearl bush has larger individual blossoms.
  • pearl dace mature more slowly than minnows and can outlive them by several years.
  • pearl gray foliage and clusters of lavender to pu more add to my plant list.
  • He says that in heaven the streets are made of beautiful gold and every gate has a pearl.
  • pearl gray foliage and clusters of lavender to purple flowers in spring and early summer.
  • Over thousands of years, a solid, almost perfectly round calcite pearl is formed.
  • The soft-pink headband complimented the shirt and the pearl earrings were perfect, even without the necklace.
  • Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl-chain of all virtues.
  • The moonlight, which seems so lucid and brilliant when you look up, is all pearl and smoke round the pond and the hills.
British Dictionary definitions for pearl


a hard smooth lustrous typically rounded structure occurring on the inner surface of the shell of a clam or oyster: consists of calcium carbonate secreted in layers around an invading particle such as a sand grain; much valued as a gem related adjectives margaric margaritic
any artificial gem resembling this
a person or thing that is like a pearl, esp in beauty or value
a pale greyish-white colour, often with a bluish tinge
a size of printer's type, approximately equal to 5 point
of, made of, or set with pearl or mother-of-pearl
having the shape or colour of a pearl
(transitive) to set with or as if with pearls
to shape into or assume a pearl-like form or colour
(intransitive) to dive or search for pearls
Word Origin
C14: from Old French, from Vulgar Latin pernula (unattested), from Latin perna sea mussel


noun, verb
a variant spelling of purl1 (sense 2), purl1 (sense 3), purl1 (sense 5)
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 pearl

mid-13c., from Old French perle (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin perla (mid-13c.), of unknown origin. Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *pernula, diminutive of Latin perna, which in Sicily meant "pearl," earlier "sea-mussel," literally "ham, haunch, gammon," so called for the shape of the mollusk shells.

Other theories connect it with the root of pear, also somehow based on shape, or Latin pilula "globule," with dissimilation. The usual Latin word for "pearl" was margarita (see margarite).

For pearls before swine, see swine. Pearl Harbor translates Hawaiian Wai Momi, literally "pearl waters," so named for the pearl oysters found there; transferred sense of "effective sudden attack" is attested from 1942 (in reference to Dec. 7, 1941).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pearl in Medicine

pearl (pûrl)

  1. A small sphere of thin glass containing amyl nitrite or other volatile fluid, designed to be crushed, as in a handkerchief, so that its contents can be inhaled.

  2. Any of a number of small tough masses of mucus occurring in the sputum in asthma.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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pearl in Science
A smooth, slightly iridescent, white or grayish rounded growth inside the shells of some mollusks. Pearls form as a reaction to the presence of a foreign particle, and consist of thin layers of mother-of-pearl that are deposited around the particle. The pearls of oysters are often valued as gems.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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pearl in Technology

1. A language for constructive mathematics developed by Constable at Cornell University in the 1980s.
2. Process and Experiment Automation Real-Time Language.
3. One of five pedagogical languages based on Markov algorithms, used in "Nonpareil, a Machine Level Machine Independent Language for the Study of Semantics", B. Higman, ULICS Intl Report No ICSI 170, U London (1968). Compare Brilliant, Diamond, Nonpareil, Ruby.
4. A multilevel language developed by Brian Randell ca 1970 and mentioned in "Machine Oriented Higher Level Languages", W. van der Poel, N-H 1974.
5. An obsolete term for Larry Wall's PERL programming language, which never fell into common usage other than in typographical errors. The missing 'a' remains as an atrophied remnant in the expansion "Practical Extraction and Report Language".
["Programming Perl", Larry Wall and Randal L. Schwartz, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. Sebastopol, CA. ISBN 0-93715-64-1].
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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pearl in the Bible

(Heb. gabish, Job 28:18; Gr. margarites, Matt. 7:6; 13:46; Rev. 21:21). The pearl oyster is found in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Its shell is the "mother of pearl," which is of great value for ornamental purposes (1 Tim. 2:9; Rev. 17:4). Each shell contains eight or ten pearls of various sizes.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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