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[wom-puh m, wawm-] /ˈwɒm pəm, ˈwɔm-/
Also called peag, seawan, sewan. cylindrical beads made from shells, pierced and strung, used by North American Indians as a medium of exchange, for ornaments, and for ceremonial and sometimes spiritual purposes, especially such beads when white but also including the more valuable black or dark-purple varieties.
Informal. money.
Origin of wampum
First recorded in 1630-40; short for wampumpeag Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for wampum
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This was beautifully decorated with belts of wampum from the waist upward.

    King Philip

    John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott
  • The young man saw that it was of the same stuff as the wampum which he had in his bosom.

    The Indian Fairy Book Cornelius Mathews
  • wampum was used for ornament and in treaty-making, but not as currency.

  • They give my Injun, pipe, wampum, and powder horn with carving on it for you.'

    Ben Comee

    M. J. (Michael Joseph) Canavan
  • If you love your women and children, receive the belt of wampum I present you.

    Daniel Boone John S. C. Abbott
  • A solemn smoking of pipes, passing of wampum, feasts and dances.

    A Little Girl in Old Quebec Amanda Millie Douglas
  • But wampum strings and belts subserved other equally important uses.

    Wampum Ashbel Woodward
  • The wampum was a pledge of their sincerity, and white an emblem of purity and of faith.

    Wampum Ashbel Woodward
  • wampum played an important part in religious as well as civil ceremonies.

    Wampum Ashbel Woodward
British Dictionary definitions for wampum


(formerly) money used by North American Indians, made of cylindrical shells strung or woven together, esp white shells rather than the more valuable black or purple ones
(US & Canadian, informal) money or wealth
Also called peag, peage
Word Origin
C17: short for wampumpeag, from Narraganset wampompeag, from wampan light + api string + -ag plural suffix
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 wampum

1630s, shortened from wampumpeag (1620s), from Algonquian (probably Narragansett) wanpanpiak "string of white (shell beads)," from wab "white" + ompe "string" + plural suffix -ag.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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wampum in Culture
wampum [(wahm-puhm)]

Beads made from polished shells that some Native Americans once used as money and jewelry.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for wampum



Money; cash; bread

[1897+; short for Algonquian wampumpeag, ''beads made from quahog shells and used as money'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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