see also: Pearl
  • (British) IPA: /pɜːl/, [pʰəːɫ]
  • (America) IPA: /pɝl/, [pʰɝɫ]


  1. A shelly concretion, usually rounded, and having a brilliant luster, with varying tints, found in the mantle, or between the mantle and shell, of certain bivalve mollusks, especially in the pearl oysters and river mussels, and sometimes in certain univalves. It is usually due to a secretion of shelly substance around some irritating foreign particle. Its substance is the same as nacre, or mother-of-pearl. Round lustrous pearls are used in jewellery.
  2. (figuratively) Something precious.
    • 1606, William Shakespeare, Macbeth ACt 5 Scene 8
      I see thee compassed with thy kingdom's pearl.
    • 1920, Herman Cyril McNeile, Bulldog Drummond Chapter 1
      Hugh helped himself to bacon. "My dear fellow, she can think what she likes so long as she continues to grill bacon like this. Your wife is a treasure, James—a pearl amongst women; and you can tell her so with my love."
  3. A capsule of gelatin or similar substance containing liquid for e.g. medicinal application.
  4. Nacre, or mother-of-pearl.
  5. A whitish speck or film on the eye.
    • 1641, John Milton, Animadversions upon The Remonstrants Defence Against Smectymnuus, Section III.
      quote en
  6. A fish allied to the turbot; the brill.
  7. A light-colored tern.
  8. One of the circle of tubercles which form the bur on a deer's antler.
  9. (uncountable, typography, printing, dated) The size of type between diamond and agate, standardized as 5-point.
  10. A fringe or border.
  11. (obsolete) A jewel or gem.
    • 1635, Douay Rheims Bible, Proverbs 20:15
      There is gold, and multitude of pearles: but a precious vessel the lips of knowledge.
  12. (euphemistic, vulgar, slang) The clitoris.
    • 2010, Richard Knight, Simple Fantasies Can Come True (page 10)
      My mouth and tongue finally find her pearl. Her clitoris.
Translations Translations Translations Verb

pearl (pearls, present participle pearling; past and past participle pearled)

  1. (transitive, sometimes, figurative) To set or adorn with pearls, or with mother-of-pearl.
  2. (transitive) To cause to resemble pearls in shape; to make into small round grains.
    to pearl barley
  3. (transitive) To cause to resemble pearls in lustre or iridescence.
    • 1993, New Scientist (volume 139, page 62)
      A Teaching Company Scheme developing new technology for pearling light bulbs was established in October […]
  4. (intransitive) To resemble pearl or pearls.
  5. (intransitive) To hunt for pearls
    to go pearling
  6. (intransitive, surfing) to dig the nose of one's surfboard into the water, often on takeoff.
    • 1999, Joanne VanMeter []:
      Used a pointed tip today and learned why I kept pearling with my round tipped board. Round noses like to dig into the water, causing frustrating wipeouts.

Proper noun
  1. A female given name
    • 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne, ''The Scarlet Letter, Chapter VI:
      Her Pearl!—For so had Hester called her; not as a name expressive of her aspect, which had nothing of the calm, white, unimpassioned lustre that would be indicated by the comparison. But she named the infant "Pearl," as being of great price,—purchased with all she had,—her mother's only treasure!
    • 1992 Karen Kijewski, Kat's Cradle, page 7:
      "What was your name?"
      "Pearl." Ruby and Pearl, mother and daughter. " It's an ugly name, isn't it?"
      "No, it isn't". And I meant it, it wasn't. "Old-fashioned, perhaps, but nice."
      She stared at me. "Do you know what pearls are? They're ugliness: dirt or sand gets in an oyster and the oyster coats it over so that it won't be irritating."
  2. (geography) Various Pearl Rivers, particularly the major river of Guangdong in China.

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