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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mother-of-pearl
Historical Examples
  • One moment he lay there, glowing like mother-of-pearl, a rare fish, fresh from the sea.

    Tales of Fishes Zane Grey
  • Once he crossed his eyes at me, meditatively, above the mother-of-pearl rims.

    Romance Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer
  • The slant rays of the sun struck them and turned them mother-of-pearl.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • We saw a number of divers preparing to go off to get pearls, mother-of-pearl, etc.

    The Philippine Islands John Foreman
  • Without, it had the tints of the mother-of-pearl, while its framework was of silver.

    The Angel Children Charlotte M. Higgins
  • Harpoons, made of cane, were used to catch fish, and fish-hooks of mother-of-pearl.

    Captain Cook W.H.G. Kingston
  • There was a great, full moon; and the sea was mother-of-pearl.

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

    Cornwall's Wonderland

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

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • To his experienced eye the glow was that of mother-of-pearl.

    Madge Morton's Victory Amy D.V. Chalmers
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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