- the highly polished, usually brightly colored shell of a marine gastropod of the genus Cypraea, as that of C. moneta (money cowrie), used as money in certain parts of Asia and Africa, or that of C. tigris, used for ornament.
- the gastropod itself.
Origin of cowrie
First recorded in 1655–65, cowrie is from the Hindi word kaurī
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for cowrie
It was covered with red velvet and decorated with cowrie shells.The Horsewoman
Alice M. Hayes
He wore a broad belt decorated with cowrie shells and beads.The Upward Path
I know almost every island where trade can be got, and the price to a cowrie that should be paid.A Modern Buccaneer
There was no need to worry about food—no need to spend a cowrie at the crowded stalls.Kim
They were so laden with savage riches as to be almost concealed beneath the strings of cowrie shells and bands of beads.The Leopard Woman
Stewart Edward White
- any marine gastropod mollusc of the mostly tropical family Cypraeidae, having a glossy brightly marked shell with an elongated opening
- the shell of any of these molluscs, esp the shell of Cypraea moneta (money cowry), used as money in parts of Africa and S Asia
C17: from Hindi kaurī, from Sanskrit kaparda, of Dravidian origin; related to Tamil kōtu shell
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 cowrie
small shell, used as money in parts of Asia, 1660s, from Hindi and Urdu kauri, from Mahrati kavadi, from Sanskrit kaparda, perhaps related to Tamil kotu "shell."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper