[ wom-puh m, wawm- ]
/ ˈwɒm pəm, ˈwɔm- /


Also called peag, seawan, sewan. cylindrical beads made from shells, pierced and strung, used by North American Indians as a medium of exchange, for ornaments, and for ceremonial and sometimes spiritual purposes, especially such beads when white but also including the more valuable black or dark-purple varieties.
Informal. money.

Nearby words

  1. wame,
  2. wammul,
  3. wammus,
  4. wampanoag,
  5. wampish,
  6. wampumpeag,
  7. wampus,
  8. wamus,
  9. wan,
  10. wan-hsien

Origin of wampum

First recorded in 1630–40; short for wampumpeag

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wampum

British Dictionary definitions for wampum


/ (ˈwɒmpəm) /


(formerly) money used by North American Indians, made of cylindrical shells strung or woven together, esp white shells rather than the more valuable black or purple ones
US and Canadian informal money or wealth
Also called: peag, peage

Word Origin for wampum

C17: short for wampumpeag, from Narraganset wampompeag, from wampan light + api string + -ag plural suffix

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 wampum



1630s, shortened from wampumpeag (1620s), from Algonquian (probably Narragansett) wanpanpiak "string of white (shell beads)," from wab "white" + ompe "string" + plural suffix -ag.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for wampum


[ (wahm-puhm) ]

Beads made from polished shells that some Native Americans once used as money and jewelry.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.