View synonyms for pearl



[ purl ]


  1. a smooth, rounded bead formed within the shells of certain mollusks and composed of the mineral aragonite or calcite in a matrix, deposited in concentric layers as a protective coating around an irritating foreign object: valued as a gem when lustrous and finely colored. Compare cultured pearl ( def ).
  2. something resembling a bead formed in the shells of certain mollusks, such as various synthetic substances for use in costume jewelry:

    The pearls on this rosary are made of glass and protected by silver-plated double filigree caps.

  3. something similar in form, luster, etc., to a bead formed in the shells of certain mollusks, such as a dewdrop or a capsule of medicine:

    She wiped the pearls of sweat from her forehead.

  4. something precious or choice; the finest example of anything:

    An older couple offered us some pearls of wisdom about keeping a marriage healthy.

    The pearl of the museum's collection is one of Van Gogh's paintings, but there are many other things worth seeing.

  5. a very pale gray approaching white but commonly with a bluish tinge:

    We wanted to paint the walls eggshell at first, but we ultimately decided on a cooler color and went with pearl.

  6. mother-of-pearl (usually used in combination):

    His collection includes a beautiful antique pearl-handled revolver.

  7. Printing. a 5-point type.
  8. Also called ep·i·the·li·al pearl [ep-, uh, -, thee, -lee-, uh, l , purl]. Pathology. a rounded mass of keratin occurring in certain carcinomas of the skin.

verb (used with object)

  1. to adorn or stud with or as if with pearls:

    The crown, newly pearled and gilded, shone in the candlelight.

  2. to make like pearls, as in form or color:

    Opalescent discs of abalone shell caught the light and pearled it back in many colors.

verb (used without object)

  1. to dive, fish, or search for mollusks that produce beads within their shells:

    While pearling near the coast, they discovered the remains of a centuries-old shipwreck.

  2. to assume a pearllike form or appearance:

    A tear pearled on her lashes.


  1. resembling the gemstone produced by certain mollusks in form or color:

    The dress is a lovely pearl gray.

  2. of or relating to pearls:

    If you really want to splurge, book a trip to go pearl diving in French Polynesia.

    An eco-friendly pearl farming industry could decrease heavy metals in the water and bring economic benefits to this region.

  3. set with a pearl or pearls, or covered or inlaid with pearls or mother-of-pearl:

    She wore a navy blue suit and a pearl necklace.

  4. having or reduced to small, rounded grains:

    Pearl millet is a common crop of the region.



[ purl ]


  1. a town in central Mississippi.
  2. a female given name.



/ pɜːl /


  1. a hard smooth lustrous typically rounded structure occurring on the inner surface of the shell of a clam or oyster: consists of calcium carbonate secreted in layers around an invading particle such as a sand grain; much valued as a gem margaricmargaritic
  2. any artificial gem resembling this
  3. a person or thing that is like a pearl, esp in beauty or value
  4. a pale greyish-white colour, often with a bluish tinge
  5. a size of printer's type, approximately equal to 5 point


  1. of, made of, or set with pearl or mother-of-pearl
  2. having the shape or colour of a pearl


  1. tr to set with or as if with pearls
  2. to shape into or assume a pearl-like form or colour
  3. intr to dive or search for pearls



/ pɜːl /


  1. a variant spelling of purl 1 purl 1 purl 1


/ pûrl /

  1. A smooth, slightly iridescent, white or grayish rounded growth inside the shells of some mollusks. Pearls form as a reaction to the presence of a foreign particle, and consist of thin layers of mother-of-pearl that are deposited around the particle. The pearls of oysters are often valued as gems.

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Other Words From

  • pearl·er noun
  • pearl·ish adjective
  • pearl·like adjective

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Word History and Origins

Origin of pearl1

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English perle, from Middle French, from Italian or assumed Vulgar Latin perla (unrecorded), from Latin pernula (unrecorded), from pern(a) “sea mussel,” also “ham, thigh” (compare Old English fiersn, Greek ptérnē, Sanskrit pā́rṣṇi “heel”) + -ula, feminine of -ulus -ule ( def )

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Word History and Origins

Origin of pearl1

C14: from Old French, from Vulgar Latin pernula (unattested), from Latin perna sea mussel

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Idioms and Phrases

  1. cast pearls before swine, to offer or give something of great value to those incapable of appreciating it:

    She read them Shakespeare but it was casting pearls before swine.

  2. pearls in your oysters, good luck to you (often used when parting or in thanks):

    Well, I've got to go now—pearls in your oysters.

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Example Sentences

There are some folks who point out, correctly, that Pearl is at work on a causal calculus, that is, a calculus that can do causal reasoning.

Jackie is the pearl of a new restaurant in Navy Yard, a high-concept addition to the neighborhood’s dining scene.

Those with means have shifted to grow crops such as pearl millet, cow peas, bottle gourd and corn — essentially anything but rice — that use a fraction of the water.

Most recently, LNC was used to grow watermelon, pearl millet, and zucchini in the desert outside Dubai.

There’s a pearl of old internet wisdom to be skeptical of everything you see on the Internet.

But Ruby Pearl kept order, and the more responsibility she took the more Spahn relied upon her.

In the last few years, however, Spahn gradually began to notice changes in Ruby Pearl.

What was America supposed to do after Pearl Harbor, put the keys to the Golden Gate in an airmail envelope and send them to Tojo?

In 1882, the Pearl Street station, in lower Manhattan, went on line, with 59 customers – mostly businesses and factories.

But after Pearl Harbor there was no longer a case for special pleading.

"The Seorita is a pearl of prudence and discretion: do whatever she desired you," said Alphonse.

I must admit that there is some excuse for you; the pearl of Andalusia is undoubtedly ravissante.

It must have been the window-panes, for he was anxious to get the most beautiful mother-of-pearl he could find.

He knows the whole piano literature, and is continually fishing up some new or old pearl or other to surprise one with.

The wind-blown rain-makers lost their leaden hue and became a soft pearl-gray, all fleecy white around the edges.


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More About Pearl

What does pearl mean?

A pearl is a smooth, rounded bead formed inside the shells of certain mollusks, such as clams and oysters.

Pearls are known for being used in jewelry, such as pearl necklaces and pearl earrings.

Pearls vary in size and color. They are most commonly an iridescent, milky white, but they can be several other colors, including gray and even black.

Although pearls are not stones, the pearl is one of the birthstones for the month of June, along with moonstone and alexandrite. It is associated with the zodiac signs Gemini and Cancer.

The word pearl is sometimes used figuratively to refer to something precious or to the finest example of something, such as in the phrase pearls of wisdom.

Pearl can also be a girl’s name.

Example: My grandmother left me her pearl necklace, and I always wear it on special occasions.

Where does pearl come from?

The first records of the word pearl come from the 1300s. It comes from the Middle English perle, ultimately from the Latin perna, meaning “sea mussel.”

Mollusks like clams and oysters produce pearls when an irritant—such as a grain of sand—gets inside their shell. The particle is coated with thin layers of mother-of-pearl, the hard, iridescent substance that makes up the inside of mollusk shells. Pearls are primarily composed of calcium carbonate (which is what mother-of-pearl mainly consists of).

Some pearls are cultured—meaning they are “grown” inside mollusk shells by intentionally introducing the irritant that will start the process that produces a pearl.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to pearl?

  • pearllike (adjective)

What are some words that share a root or word element with pearl

What are some words that often get used in discussing pearl?

How is pearl used in real life?

Pearls are known for their use in jewelry, especially earrings and necklaces. They are associated with preciousness.

Try using pearl!

True or False? 

Pearls are only ever white.

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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