• synonyms


[ 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.


writ of habeas corpusRead more in this article about some frequently asked questions and fun facts related to our definitions.

Nearby words

mother's helper, mother-in-law, mother-in-law plant, mother-in-law's tongue, mother-naked, mother-of-pearl, mother-of-pearl cloud, mother-of-pearl glass, mother-of-pearl moth, mother-of-thousands, mother-of-thyme

Origin of mother-of-pearl

1500–10; compare Italian madreperla, obsolete French mère perle Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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, etcAlso 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

Word Origin and History for mother of pearl

mother of pearl


c.1500, translating Medieval Latin mater perlarum, with the first element perhaps connected in popular imagination with obsolete mother (n.2) "dregs." Cf. Italian madreperla, French mère-perle, Dutch parelmoer, German Perlmutter, Danish perlemor.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for mother of pearl


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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.