Definition of clam in English:



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

    giant clam
    and → quahog
    • ‘In addition, the waters off the coast are known for their clams and scallops.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Asian clam and the zebra mussel are probably the two most common exotic species, which have been introduced to North American freshwaters.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Many bivalves (such as clams or oysters) are used as food in places all over the world.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Shell the mussels and clams and set the flesh aside.’
    • ‘Soldiers reportedly prefer smaller, canned items such as sardines and clams for their compact size and longer shelf lives.’
    • ‘Starfish, sea-urchins, clams and corals lie just yards from the shore.’
    • ‘However, the region is known for its excellent seafood, especially lobster, crawfish, clams, scallops, 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.’
    • ‘It can be found feeding on crabs, shrimps, clams, scallops, abalone and small fish.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘About 95% of fossilized creatures are marine animals: clams, snails, corals, fish, etc.’
    • ‘I used two size classes of clams for this experiment to compare variation in growth rates between different life history stages.’
    1. 1.1informal 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’
    • ‘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.’
  • 3informal A shy or withdrawn person.


  • 1North American Dig for or collect clams.

    ‘it was one of the worst times for clamming’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘The boats have proven themselves suitable to jobs on the water such as clamming, lobstering and fishing.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘His family summered on Block Island and as a teenager, he occupied his days with an outboard skiff, fishing, clamming, and catching lobsters.’
    • ‘The beaches are ideal for beach combing, clamming, and observing brown bears and other wildlife.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Kris, his dad, and his brothers went clamming, while his mom and I went shopping at the outlets.’
    • ‘If I'm not allowed to clam or fish how can I eat?’
    • ‘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).’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The geese reminded me happily of why indeed I always feel somewhat philosophical when I go clamming.’
  • 2informal Abruptly stop talking, either for fear of revealing a secret or from shyness.

    • ‘On the subject of her marriage, she clams up.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Some men are more comfortable one-on-one, and clam up in a crowd.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘This is not to say that you have to clam up totally about your accomplishments - no way!’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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?’’
    • ‘And efforts to gather information from workers who had a lucky escape at the site were in vain as they simply clammed up.’
    • ‘This was a problem, because around my crushes I clammed up and became quieter and clumsier than ever.’
    • ‘If the environment's intimidating and suppressive, if it demeans, people tend to clam up.’
    • ‘The plastic surgeon clams up if questioned about his patients.’
    • ‘But when I asked him for his opinion of missile-defense programs, the garrulous old scientist suddenly clammed up.’
    • ‘People on dates usually clam up for fear of saying something stupid.’
    • ‘Anyone who questioned his actions was portrayed as unpatriotic, a threat that caused many people to clam up.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The only time she clams up is when I ask about her boyfriend.’
    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.