Definition of clam in English:

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Pronunciation: /klam/


Image of clam
1A marine bivalve mollusk with shells of equal size.
Example sentences
  • Their tricuspid teeth (three sharp points per tooth) are especially adapted to feed on organisms with hard shells such as clams, snails, crabs and shrimp.
  • One tunnel was five and a half inches long, made by a clam whose shell measured less than two-tenths of an inch - a new record, relative to body size.
  • The Castle Eden is an extremely scenic old steamship, lying in 33m on a clean bottom of mussel shells, clams and coarse gravel.
1.1 informal Any of a number of edible bivalve mollusks, e.g., a scallop.
2US informal A dollar: all I got for the job was 50 lousy clams
More example sentences
  • But the Pittsburgh Pens weren't about to shell out 1,000 clams for nothing.
  • While that alone is reason enough to get me and most of my favorite people to shell out eight clams, I understand we're in the minority.
  • But are you willing to shell out the extra clams?
3 informal A shy or withdrawn person.

verb (clams, clamming, clammed)

[no object]
1chiefly North American Dig for or collect clams: (as noun clamming) it was one of the worst times for clamming
More example sentences
  • On Sunday when he went clamming with Dan, he was debating with himself about the future, knowing that he wanted to keep going as a firefighter a bit longer, while his family wanted him to retire.
  • I was born and raised in this state, clammed in its waters, went to school here, married a native New Yorker.
  • Before clamming, check regulations for your destination on the California Department of Fish and Game website, (laws vary according to clam species and location).
2 (clam up) informal Abruptly stop talking, either for fear of revealing a secret or from shyness.
Example sentences
  • When he's around people he doesn't know he clams up completely and just stops talking.
  • This was a problem, because around my crushes I clammed up and became quieter and clumsier than ever.
  • The plastic surgeon clams up if questioned about his patients.


Early 16th century: apparently from earlier clam 'a clamp', from Old English clam, clamm 'a bond or bondage', of Germanic origin; related to Dutch klemme, German Klemme, also to clamp1.

  • It is not easy to prise apart a clam, and this tight grip lies behind the origin of the word. Clam originally meant ‘a clamp’, and probably had the same source as clamp (Middle English). There is also an English dialect word clam, meaning ‘to be sticky or to stick to something’, which is related to clay (Old English). It is also where clammy—originally spelled claymy—comes from. See also happy

Words that rhyme with clam

am, Amsterdam, Assam, Bram, cam, cham, cheongsam, cram, dam, damn, drachm, dram, exam, femme, flam, gam, glam, gram, ham, jam, jamb, lam, lamb, mam, mesdames, Omar Khayyám, Pam, pram, pro-am, ram, Sam, scam, scram, sham, Siam, slam, Spam, swam, tam, tram, Vietnam, wham, yam

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: clam

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