• synonyms


[meer-shuh m, -shawm]
  1. a mineral, hydrous magnesium silicate, H4Mg2Si3O10, occurring in white, claylike masses, used for ornamental carvings, for pipe bowls, etc.; sepiolite.
  2. a tobacco pipe with a bowl made of this substance.
Show More

Origin of meerschaum

1775–85; < German Meerschaum, equivalent to Meer sea (see mere2) + Schaum foam
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for meerschaum

Historical Examples

  • It was as if the old days of the music-lesson and the meerschaum had come back.

    Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • "Nobody ever gives me a meerschaum pipe," he said, plaintively.

  • When the long dinner hour was over, Papa Wolf lighted his meerschaum.

    The Forbidden Trail

    Honor Willsie

  • He puffed periodically on his "meerschaum" pipe, and directed the sluicing.

    Blazed Trail Stories

    Stewart Edward White

  • He blinked twice, and put the meerschaum back between his lips.

    The Island Pharisees

    John Galsworthy

British Dictionary definitions for meerschaum


  1. Also called: sepiolite a white, yellowish, or pink compact earthy mineral consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate: used to make tobacco pipes and as a building stone. Formula: Mg 2 Si 3 O 6 (OH) 4
  2. a tobacco pipe having a bowl made of this mineral
Show More

Word Origin

C18: German, literally: sea foam
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 meerschaum


type of soft white clay, 1784; from 1789 as "tobacco pipe with a bowl made of meerschaum clay," from German Meerschaum, literally "sea-foam," so called from its frothy appearance; from Old High German mari "sea" (see mere (n.)) + scum "scum" (see skim (v.)). A loan-translation of Latin spuma maris, itself said to be a loan translation of Greek halos akhne, from Persian kaf-i-darya.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper