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Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Idioms about pearl

    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.

Origin of pearl

1300–50; Middle English perle<Middle French <Italian or assumed Vulgar Latin *perla (>German Perle,Old English pærl), for Latin *pernula (>Portuguese perola, perhaps Old Saxon përula), diminutive of Latin perna sea mussel


pearler, nounpearlish, adjectivepearllike, adjective

Other definitions for pearl (2 of 2)

[ purl ]
/ pɜrl /

a town in central Mississippi.
a female given name.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


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.

How to use pearl in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for pearl (1 of 2)

/ (pɜːl) /

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

Word Origin for pearl

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

British Dictionary definitions for pearl (2 of 2)

/ (pɜːl) /

noun, verb
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

Scientific definitions for pearl

[ pûrl ]

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.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.