Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

WORD ORIGIN

as a 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, whom he accused of excessive aloofness.

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]:

MORE RELATED WORDS FOR IVORY-TOWER

ideal

adjectiveconceptual; impractical
Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.