- a smooth, rounded bead formed within the shells of certain mollusks and composed of the mineral aragonite or calcite in a matrix, deposited in concentric layers as a protective coating around an irritating foreign object: valued as a gem when lustrous and finely colored.Compare cultured pearl.
- something resembling this, as various synthetic substances for use in costume jewelry.
- something similar in form, luster, etc., as a dewdrop or a capsule of medicine.
- something precious or choice; the finest example of anything: pearls of wisdom.
- a very pale gray approaching white but commonly with a bluish tinge.
- mother-of-pearl: a pearl-handled revolver.
- Printing. a 5-point type.
- Also called epithelial pearl. Pathology. a rounded mass of keratin occurring in certain carcinomas of the skin.
verb (used with object)
- to adorn or stud with or as with pearls.
- to make like pearls, as in form or color.
verb (used without object)
- to dive, fish, or search for pearls.
- to assume a pearllike form or appearance.
- resembling a pearl in form or color.
- of or relating to pearls: pearl diving.
- set with a pearl or pearls or covered or inlaid with pearls or mother-of-pearl: a pearl necklace.
- having or reduced to small, rounded grains.
- 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.
- a person who dives for or trades in pearls
- a boat used while searching for pearls
- Australian informal something impressivethat shot was a real pearler
- Australian informal excellent; pleasing
- a hard smooth lustrous typically rounded structure occurring on the inner surface of the shell of a clam or oyster: consists of calcium carbonate secreted in layers around an invading particle such as a sand grain; much valued as a gemRelated adjectives: margaric, margaritic
- any artificial gem resembling this
- See mother-of-pearl
- a person or thing that is like a pearl, esp in beauty or value
- a pale greyish-white colour, often with a bluish tinge
- a size of printer’s type, approximately equal to 5 point
- of, made of, or set with pearl or mother-of-pearl
- having the shape or colour of a pearl
- (tr) to set with or as if with pearls
- to shape into or assume a pearl-like form or colour
- (intr) to dive or search for pearls
- a variant spelling of purl 1 (def. 2), purl 1 (def. 3), purl 1 (def. 5)
n.mid-13c., from Old French perle (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin perla (mid-13c.), of unknown origin. Perhaps from Vulgar Latin *pernula, diminutive of Latin perna, which in Sicily meant “pearl,” earlier “sea-mussel,” literally “ham, haunch, gammon,” so called for the shape of the mollusk shells. Other theories connect it with the root of pear, also somehow based on shape, or Latin pilula “globule,” with dissimilation. The usual Latin word for “pearl” was margarita (see margarite). For pearls before swine, see swine. Pearl Harbor translates Hawaiian Wai Momi, literally “pearl waters,” so named for the pearl oysters found there; transferred sense of “effective sudden attack” is attested from 1942 (in reference to Dec. 7, 1941). n.
- A small sphere of thin glass containing amyl nitrite or other volatile fluid, designed to be crushed, as in a handkerchief, so that its contents can be inhaled.
- Any of a number of small tough masses of mucus occurring in the sputum in asthma.
- 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.