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[muhth -er-uh v-purl] /ˈmʌð ər əvˈpɜrl/
a hard, iridescent substance that forms the inner layer of certain mollusk shells, used for making buttons, beads, etc.; nacre.
of or having the qualities of mother-of-pearl, as being iridescent or pearly:
mother-of-pearl buttons.
Origin of mother-of-pearl
obsolete French
1500-10; compare Italian madreperla, obsolete French mère perle Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for mother-of-pearl
Historical Examples
  • By diplomatic (and mercenary) arts I gained admittance to three, one of which has walls studded with jasper and mother-of-pearl.

    Mentone, Cairo, and Corfu Constance Fenimore Woolson
  • Harpoons, made of cane, were used to catch fish, and fish-hooks of mother-of-pearl.

    Captain Cook W.H.G. Kingston
  • So Larry chose the happy medium and pressed the mother-of-pearl button of 1142.

  • There was a great, full moon; and the sea was mother-of-pearl.

  • A kind of viola d'amore of the Hardanger peasants in Norway, inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory.

  • Your floors are of rough, ugly rocks, ours are of mother-of-pearl.

    Cornwall's Wonderland Mabel Quiller-Couch
  • They are covered all over with gold-leaf, and the eyes of the larger ones are made of mother-of-pearl.

  • The mother-of-pearl which lines some shells, both univalve and bivalve.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • The Queen sent Nina a beautiful point-lace fan with mother-of-pearl sticks.

    The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912 Lillie DeHegermann-Lindencrone
  • One moment he lay there, glowing like mother-of-pearl, a rare fish, fresh from the sea.

    Tales of Fishes Zane Grey
British Dictionary definitions for mother-of-pearl


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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mother-of-pearl in Science
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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