Etymology
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ivory (n.)

mid-13c. (late 12c. as a surname), Anglo-French ivorie, from Old North French ivurie (12c.), from Medieval Latin eborium "ivory," noun use of neuter of Latin eboreus "of ivory," from ebur (genitive eboris) "ivory," probably via Phoenician from an African source (compare Egyptian ab "elephant," Coptic ebu "ivory").

It replaced Old English elpendban, literally "elephant bone." Applied in slang to articles made from it, such as dice (1830) and piano keys (1818). As a color, especially in reference to human skin, it is attested from 1580s. Ivories as slang for "teeth" dates from 1782. Black ivory was ivory burnt and powdered, used as a pigment (1810); the sense "African slaves as an article of commerce" is attested from 1834.

Mr. Dunlap then asked the witness what he himself traded in, when on the African coast, and he replied "sometimes in black ivory;" but, being more closely pressed to explain what he meant by "black ivory," he admitted that when he could not get a cargo of real ivory, he took one of slaves. ["Trial of the Twelve Spanish Pirates," Boston, 1834]

Related: Ivoried; ivorine.

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ivory tower (n.)

symbol of artistic or intellectual aloofness, by 1889, from French tour d'ivoire, used in 1837 by critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) with reference to the poet Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863), whom he accused of excessive aloofness.

Et Vigny, plus secret, comme en sa tour d'ivoire, avant midi rentrait. [Sainte-Beuve, "Pensées d'Août, à M. Villemain," 1837]

Used earlier as a type of a wonder or a symbol of "the ideal." The literal image is perhaps from Song of Solomon [vii:4]:

Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus. [KJV]
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chryselephantine (adj.)

of ancient statues, "overlaid with gold and ivory," 1816, probably via German, from Latinized form of Greek khryselephantinos, from khrysos "gold" (see chryso-) + elephantinos "made of ivory," from elephans (genitive elephantos) "elephant; ivory" (see elephant).

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cryselephantine (adj.)
1827, from Greek khryselephantinos "of gold and ivory," applied to statues overlaid with gold and ivory, such as Athene Parthenos and Olympian Zeus.
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pool-ball (n.)

"ivory ball used in the game of pool," by 1871, from pool (n.2) + ball (n.1).

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oliphant (n.)

obsolete form of elephant (q.v.), c. 1200; also used in Middle English with sense "ivory horn." Compare camel.

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castanet (n.)

usually castanets, "slightly concave shells of ivory or hard wood, fastened and used in beating time in music or dancing," 1640s, from French castagnette or directly from Spanish castañeta diminutive of castaña "chestnut," from Latin castanea (see chestnut).

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blackball (v.)
also black-ball, "to exclude from a club by adverse votes," 1770, from black (adj.) + ball (n.1). The image is of the black balls of wood or ivory that were dropped into an urn as adverse votes during secret ballots. Related: Blackballed; blackballing.
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billiards (n.)
game played on as rectangular table with ivory balls and wooden sticks, 1590s, from French billiard, originally the word for the wooden cue stick, a diminutive of Old French bille "stick of wood," from Medieval Latin billia "tree, trunk," which is possibly from Gaulish (compare Irish bile "tree trunk").
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diptych (n.)

1620s, "hinged, two-leaved tablet of wood, ivory, etc., with waxed inner surfaces, used by the Greeks and Romans for writing with the style," from Latin diptycha (plural), from late Greek diptykha, neuter plural of diptykhos "double-folded, doubled," from di- "two" (see di- (1)) + ptykhe "fold," which is of uncertain etymology. In art, "a pair of pictures or carvings on two panels hinged together," by 1852.

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