April 8, 2022

Wampum /Wampum/ noun   

Definition: Wampum describes a very specific historical item from North American Indians that had multiple purposes and values. 

These small, cylindrical beads were traditionally made from shells and were worn as decoration or used as money. 

Etymology: The origin of the word itself is from the Algonquian word wampumpeag. Wap means white, umpe means string, and ag is a plural suffix. North American Indians started using this word in the 1630s, and the New England Algonquians have been using their form of the word since the 1620s. In this context, wampum is a string of white and purple beads, typically cylindrical, and they’re usually a quarter of an inch in length.

In a Sentence

A strand of wampum can both be used as decoration or as a currency.

Did you know that dark wampum, which is purple, is the most valuable because it’s made with a clamshell?

I think it’s amazing that wampum has such a wide variety of uses and is so beautiful aesthetically!

Wampum typically only came in two colors, white or purple.


Valuable, Currency


Sour, Soothe


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