• synonyms


  1. a carved or engraved article, especially of whale ivory, whalebone, walrus tusks, or the like, made by whalers as a leisure occupation.
  2. such articles or work collectively.
  3. the art or technique of carving or engraving whale ivory, whalebone, walrus tusks, etc.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to produce scrimshaw.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to carve or engrave (whale ivory or whalebone) into scrimshaw.
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Origin of scrimshaw

First recorded in 1860–65; of obscure origin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of scrimshaw

British Dictionary definitions for scrimshaw


  1. the art of decorating or carving shells, ivory, etc, done by sailors as a leisure activity
    1. an article made in this manner
    2. such articles collectively
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  1. to produce scrimshaw (from)
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Word Origin for scrimshaw

C19: origin uncertain, perhaps after a surname
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 scrimshaw


1864, "A nautical word of unstable orthography" [Century Dictionary], back-formation from scrimshander ("Moby Dick," 1851), scrimshonting (1825), American English, of unknown origin. Scrimshaw is an English surname, attested from mid-12c., from Old French escremisseor "fencing-master."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper