- 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.
Origin of wampum
Examples from the Web for wampum
America with lakes of lucre, waves of wampum, a Superstorm Sandy of simoleons, a Hurricane Katrina of cash.The Federal Government Has Violated My Right to Chainsaw
P. J. O’Rourke
April 27, 2014
This was beautifully decorated with belts of wampum from the waist upward.King Philip
John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott
The young man saw that it was of the same stuff as the wampum which he had in his bosom.The Indian Fairy Book
Wampum was used for ornament and in treaty-making, but not as currency.The Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin
Frederick Jackson Turner
They give my Injun, pipe, wampum, and powder horn with carving on it for you.'Ben Comee
M. J. (Michael Joseph) Canavan
If you love your women and children, receive the belt of wampum I present you.Daniel Boone
John S. C. Abbott
- (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
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.
Beads made from polished shells that some Native Americans once used as money and jewelry.