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[klem] /klɛm/
verb (used with or without object), clemmed, clemming. British Dialect.
to starve.
Origin of clem
1530-40; akin to Middle English forclemmed (past participle) pinched with hunger, Old English beclemman to fetter Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for clemming
Historical Examples
  • Even the middle classes suffered, and the poor could only meet such trouble by 'clemming' or self-starvation.

    Victorian Worthies

    George Henry Blore
  • Now clemming is a quiet death, and worrying isn't, so I choose clemming, and come into th' Union.

    Mary Barton

    Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
  • In 1888, Punch, in "Cramming versus 'clemming'" emphasizes the need of providing free meals for poor children.

  • Father were stunned wi' the blow at first, for all Boucher were weak wi' passion and wi' clemming.

    North and South Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
British Dictionary definitions for clemming


verb clems, clemming, clemmed, clams, clamming, clammed
(when transitive, usually passive) (English, dialect) to be hungry or cause to be hungry
Word Origin
C16: of Germanic origin; related to Dutch, German klemmen to pinch, cramp; compare Old English beclemman to shut in
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Slang definitions & phrases for clemming



A fight between show people and the local citizenry: It'd start a clem, with me in the middle


To disperse rioting customers at a circus or carnival (1920s+ Circus & carnival)



A cry used by circus people to rally forces in a fight with townspeople


  1. A small-town resident; rural person, esp one who is easily duped
  2. An inhabitant of the place where the circus is playing (1920s+ Circus)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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