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A seashell, also known as a sea shell, or simply as a shell, is the common name for a hard, protective outer layer, a shell (or in some cases a "test") that was created by a sea creature, a marine organism. The shell is part of the body of a marine animal. In most cases a shell is an exoskeleton, usually that of an animal without a backbone, an invertebrate.


  • I have a large sea shell collection which I keep scattered on beaches all over the world. Maybe you've seen it.
    • Steven Wright, I Have a Pony (1985), track 09; reported in Frank Forencich, Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement (2006), p. 239.
  • One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.
  • I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
    • Isaac Newton, reported in Sir David Brewster, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (1855), Volume II. Ch. 27.
  • But I have sinuous shells of pearly hue
    Within, and they that lustre have imbibed
    In the sun’s palace-porch, where when unyoked
    chariot-wheel stands midway in the wave:
    Shake one, and it awakens; then apply
    Its polisht lips to your attentive ear,
    And it remembers its august abodes,
    And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there.

Listening to seashells[edit]

  • Gather a shell from the strewn beach
    And listen at its lips: they sigh
    The same desire and mystery,
    The echo of the whole sea's speech.
  • I send thee a shell from the ocean-beach;
    But listen thou well, for my shell hath speech.
    Hold to thine ear
    And plain thou'lt hear
    Tales of ships.
    • Charles Henry Webb, With a Nantucket Shell, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The hollow sea-shell, which for years hath stood
    On dusty shelves, when held against the ear
    Proclaims its stormy parent, and we hear
    The faint, far murmur of the breaking flood.
    We hear the sea. The Sea? It is the blood
    In our own veins, impetuous and near.
    • Eugene Lee-Hamilton, Sonnet. Sea-shell Murmurs, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • I have seen
    A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
    Of inland ground, applying to his ear
    The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;
    To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
    Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
    Brightened with joy; for from within were heard
    Murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed
    Mysterious union with its native sea.
  • Poor shell! that Wordsworth so pounded and flattened in his marsh it no longer had the hoarseness of a sea, but of a hospital.
    • Walter Savage Landor, Letter to John Forster, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Go gather by the humming sea
    Some twisted, echo-harboring shell,
    And to its lips thy story tell,
    And they thy comforters will be, rewarding in melodious guile
    fretful words a little while,
    Till they shall singing fade in ruth
    And dies a pearly brotherhood;
    For words alone are certain good:
    Sin, then, for this is also sooth.

External links[edit]

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