Definition of clay in US English:

clay

noun

  • 1A stiff, sticky fine-grained earth, typically yellow, red, or bluish-gray in color and often forming an impermeable layer in the soil. It can be molded when wet, and is dried and baked to make bricks, pottery, and ceramics.

    • ‘Material culture included leather moccasins, pottery vessels with incised decoration, and clay figurines.’
    • ‘In 1851, British archaeologists discovered hundreds of clay tablets while digging in ancient Babylon.’
    • ‘I strongly suggested that the students carve only, fighting the temptation to model the soft clay with their fingers.’
    • ‘Actually red clay was used to build it.’
    • ‘One slope of the mound had clay loam soil and another had sandy loam.’
    • ‘The soil is a silty clay loam and located in the Finger Lakes.’
    • ‘He informs me that the ground below Dublin consists predominantly of boulder clay.’
    • ‘The later Babylonians adopted the same style of cuneiform writing on clay tablets.’
    • ‘The crafts will include stick making, painting, clay modelling, paper mache, collage and many more.’
    • ‘Children are like wet clay - they take the shape they are moulded into.’
    • ‘They then cut around the fish template with plastic knives, carefully removing all the excess clay.’
    • ‘Not only is it waterproof, but it will also dry like baked polymer clays.’
    • ‘You can apply a layer of bentonite clay to seal the soil or lay a synthetic liner.’
    • ‘He sat in a rocking chair after dinner and smoked a long clay pipe.’
    • ‘Higher rates must be used in heavy clay soils than in light sandy soils.’
    • ‘I've used polymer clay with children from second grade through sixth.’
    • ‘Treat dirt or red clay on children's baseball uniforms in the same manner.’
    • ‘Both were making clay pots, and everything seemed to be going along well.’
    • ‘But the fine, white clay called kaolin was essential.’
    • ‘If you're pregnant or nursing, consult your doctor before using bentonite clay.’
    earth, terracotta, gault, catlinite, pipeclay, pipestone, argil, china clay, kaolin, adobe, ball clay, bole, pug
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1technical Sediment with particles smaller than silt, typically less than 0.00016 inch (0.004 mm).
      sediment, deposit, alluvium, mud, slime, ooze, sludge
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A hardened clay surface for a tennis court.
      • ‘Fortunately the competition will be played on a hard court surface and not clay which many of our players are not familiar with.’
      • ‘The fact that clay is the perfect surface on which to learn the game and yet British players are, for the most part, terrified of it, still astounds and perplexes Jones.’
      • ‘‘I am very, very surprised to be in the quarter-final because normally clay is my favourite surface,’ he said.’
      • ‘I mean, the future of tennis lies in clay, and in creating new personalities, so I am not bothered if I am seen in some quarters as being a bit of a loner or a maverick.’
      • ‘Clay is her worst surface and she is still learning the business of running and winning on a court that turns the legs to jelly and the lungs to cement.’
      • ‘He also became the first player since 1979 to win three titles in a row on three different surfaces - grass, clay and hardcourt.’
      • ‘Then again, clay is not his surface and the battalions of Argentine baseline craftsmen are always out to get him here.’
      • ‘Of the surfaces on which tennis is played - clay, hard court, carpet, synthetic - grass suits above all the serve-and-volley game.’
      • ‘Crucially, they are potent on every surface including the indoor clay chosen for this week's final in Paris.’
    3. 1.3literary The substance of the human body.
      ‘this lifeless clay’
      • ‘Of course, he does this not through imagery alone but through turning the paint itself into a kind of turbulent human clay.’
      • ‘Some artists, notably Rembrandt, used the genre as a vehicle for ironic commentary on the discrepancies between the ideals of classical art and the faulty human clay of which we are made.’
      • ‘All things simply revert to their former state, the body of clay unto dust, and the spirit of life unto the One who loaned it for a season.’
      • ‘It was the rest of him that was made of fallible human clay.’

Origin

Old English clǣg, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch klei, also to cleave and climb.

Pronunciation

clay

/klā//kleɪ/