Article 154 of the General Laws Massachusetts in 1643 read as follows: "Wampampeag shall pass currant in the payment of Debts, to the payment of forty shillings, the white at eight a penny, the black at four, so as they be entire without breaches or deforming spots."
Today's word was borrowed in the 17th century from one of the Algonquian languages, probably Abnaki. The original form resembled wampampiak "(string of) white beads," cf. Abnaki wambambiar "chaplet, string of beads," and Delaware wapapi "white wampum" and woapaschapiall "white beads." The word is a compound of two elements, *wamp- "white" and *ampi (probably) 'bead' with the Algonquin plural endings -ag/ak or -al/ar. The first element turns up in Natick wompi "white", Delaware wapi "white," and Abnaki wambi "white." The second element, ampi "bead" also occurs in a number of Abnaki words describing strings of things. The division of the word into "wampum" and "peag" resulted from Europeans misanalyzing the compound under the influence of French and English syllabic structure.