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mother-of-pearl

[muhth-er-uh v-purl]
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noun
  1. a hard, iridescent substance that forms the inner layer of certain mollusk shells, used for making buttons, beads, etc.; nacre.
adjective
  1. of or having the qualities of mother-of-pearl, as being iridescent or pearly: mother-of-pearl buttons.

Origin of mother-of-pearl

1500–10; compare Italian madreperla, obsolete French mère perle
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
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, etcAlso 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

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

mother of pearl in Science

mother-of-pearl

  1. 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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.