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Definition of "cowrie" [cow•rie]

  • Any of various tropical marine gastropods of the family Cypraeidae, having glossy, often brightly marked shells, some of which are used as currency in the South Pacific and Africa. (noun)

American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Use "cowrie" in a sentence
  • "The first currency to be used this way was something called the cowrie shell, a seashell common in the Pacific and Indian oceans that was used for trading primarily in Africa and Asia."
  • "The cowrie is the most widely and longest used currency in history."
  • "Economists generally take for granted, if only tacitly, a teleological view of money's historical development, according to which it first takes the "primitive" form of mundane commodities such as cowrie shells and cacao seeds, and then advances through various stages, culminating in the national fiat monies most economies rely upon today. offers a spirited rebuttal to this naively "whiggish" perspective."