Definition of clam in English:



  • 1A marine bivalve mollusc with shells of equal size.

    and → giant clam
    • ‘However, the region is known for its excellent seafood, especially lobster, crawfish, clams, scallops, and shrimp.’
    • ‘Farmed shellfish, such as clams, mussels and oysters, are also sustainable; in fact, shellfish are filter feeders that leave the water cleaner than they found it.’
    • ‘I used two size classes of clams for this experiment to compare variation in growth rates between different life history stages.’
    • ‘Soldiers reportedly prefer smaller, canned items such as sardines and clams for their compact size and longer shelf lives.’
    • ‘The Asian clam and the zebra mussel are probably the two most common exotic species, which have been introduced to North American freshwaters.’
    • ‘The vongole pizza (with clams in shells) is a singular delight.’
    • ‘Environmental health officer Ray Parle explained that shellfish like mussels, oysters, clams and scallops filter their food from the water like a sieve.’
    • ‘The Castle Eden is an extremely scenic old steamship, lying in 33m on a clean bottom of mussel shells, clams and coarse gravel.’
    • ‘Many bivalves (such as clams or oysters) are used as food in places all over the world.’
    • ‘Shell the mussels and clams and set the flesh aside.’
    • ‘In addition, the waters off the coast are known for their clams and scallops.’
    • ‘It can be found feeding on crabs, shrimps, clams, scallops, abalone and small fish.’
    • ‘About 95% of fossilized creatures are marine animals: clams, snails, corals, fish, etc.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Starfish, sea-urchins, clams and corals lie just yards from the shore.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In addition to fish, other aquatic creatures such as clams and daphnia are used as indicators of chemical changes.’
    • ‘She found clams with shells measuring 4.5 millimeters that had elongated their feet some 13 centimeters from the shell.’
    • ‘And in asking the various fish vendors around Pike Place Market, I found that most of them liked to cook clams the simplest way… to steam them.’
    • ‘Scrub the mussels and clams, discarding any whose shells are gaping open or seem lifeless when you squeeze them.’
    1. 1.1informal Any of a number of edible bivalve molluscs, e.g. a scallop.
  • 2US informal A dollar.

    • ‘But are you willing to shell out the extra clams?’
    • ‘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 the Pittsburgh Pens weren't about to shell out 1,000 clams for nothing.’


  • 1North American Dig for or collect clams.

    ‘November is one of the worst times for clamming’
    • ‘I was born and raised in this state, clammed in its waters, went to school here, married a native New Yorker.’
    • ‘An 82-year-old man who went clamming in the Long Island Sound says he made the ultimate catch: the wedding ring he lost two years ago.’
    • ‘The boats have proven themselves suitable to jobs on the water such as clamming, lobstering and fishing.’
    • ‘His family summered on Block Island and as a teenager, he occupied his days with an outboard skiff, fishing, clamming, and catching lobsters.’
    • ‘‘Those oysters are a sign of a clean bay,’ he notes, adding that there's also excellent crabbing, salmon fishing, and clamming to be found here.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Kris, his dad, and his brothers went clamming, while his mom and I went shopping at the outlets.’
    • ‘The beaches are ideal for beach combing, clamming, and observing brown bears and other wildlife.’
    • ‘In this case, it would have been helpful to include material on Chesapeake Bay clamming and more material on the very active contemporary movement to ‘Save the Bay.’’
    • ‘Before clamming, check regulations for your destination on the California Department of Fish and Game website, (laws vary according to clam species and location).’
    • ‘The geese reminded me happily of why indeed I always feel somewhat philosophical when I go clamming.’
    • ‘If I'm not allowed to clam or fish how can I eat?’
  • 2informal Abruptly stop talking.

    ‘as soon as I ask if any of this can go on the record, he clams up’
    • ‘Anyone who questioned his actions was portrayed as unpatriotic, a threat that caused many people to clam up.’
    • ‘The plastic surgeon clams up if questioned about his patients.’
    • ‘If you are interrogating someone, perhaps they will clam up about some interesting questions, but at least you can be precise about what you are asking.’
    • ‘Some people willingly open up to her, others clam up, but in every case Anne-Marie feels she's connecting with them in a way she didn't before.’
    • ‘This is not to say that you have to clam up totally about your accomplishments - no way!’
    • ‘People on dates usually clam up for fear of saying something stupid.’
    • ‘The only time she clams up is when I ask about her boyfriend.’
    • ‘Some men are more comfortable one-on-one, and clam up in a crowd.’
    • ‘I became suspicious when somebody mentioned at an earlier meeting that there had been a change of name, but when I pressed them further they clammed up.’
    • ‘A lot of men really clam up and don't get deep on the subject of their feelings, and I think some of them feel that to show their feelings is a sign of weakness… am I right?’
    • ‘She replied that she wasn't talking about me, but when I asked her who was she talking about, she clammed up and could not answer.’
    • ‘Whenever it was time to do an interview I'd clam up because I'd think ‘what if the interviewee thinks I'd just asked a stupid question?’’
    • ‘On the subject of her marriage, she clams up.’
    • ‘If the environment's intimidating and suppressive, if it demeans, people tend to clam up.’
    • ‘She was with a group of women sitting on a garden wall, surrounded by a gaggle of children, who clammed up initially at my and the photographer's approach.’
    • ‘But when I asked him for his opinion of missile-defense programs, the garrulous old scientist suddenly clammed up.’
    • ‘This was a problem, because around my crushes I clammed up and became quieter and clumsier than ever.’
    • ‘Needless to say, the people that clammed up were not invited back for a second interview.’
    • ‘When he's around people he doesn't know he clams up completely and just stops talking.’
    • ‘And efforts to gather information from workers who had a lucky escape at the site were in vain as they simply clammed up.’
    be quiet, keep quiet, stay quiet, be silent, keep silent, stay silent, hold one's tongue, keep one's lips sealed
    View synonyms


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 clamp.