1. (Science: marine biology, zoology) 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. Pearls which are round, or nearly round, and of fine luster, are highly esteemed as jewels, and compare in value with the precious stones.
2. Hence, figuratively, something resembling a pearl; something very precious. I see thee compassed with thy kingdom’s pearl. (Shak) And those pearls of dew she wears. (milton)
3. Nacre, or mother-of-pearl.
4. (Science: marine biology) A fish allied to the turbot; the brill.
5. (Science: ornithology) A light-coloured tern.
6. (Science: zoology) One of the circle of tubercles which form the bur on a deer’s antler.
7. A whitish speck or film on the eye.
8. A capsule of gelatin or similar substance containing some liquid for medicinal application, as ether.
9. A size of type, between agate and diamond. This line is printed in the type called pearl. Ground pearl.
(Science: zoology) A crystallized variety of dolomite, having a pearly luster. Pearl white. Basic bismuth nitrate, or bismuth subchloride; used chiefly as a cosmetic. A variety of white lead blued with indigo or Berlin blue.
Origin: OE. Perle, F. Perle, LL. Perla, perula, probably fr. (assumed) L. Pirulo, dim. Of L. Pirum a pear. See Pear, and cf. Purl to mantle.