clam

1
[klam]

noun

any of various bivalve mollusks, especially certain edible species.Compare quahog, soft-shell clam.
Informal. a secretive or silent person.
Slang. a dollar or the sum of a dollar: I only made 60 clams a week.

verb (used without object), clammed, clam·ming.

to gather or dig clams.

Verb Phrases

clam up, Slang. to refuse to talk or reply; refrain from talking or divulging information: The teacher asked who had thrown the eraser, but the class clammed up.

Origin of clam

1
1585–95; short for clam-shell, i.e., bivalve with a shell that clamps. See clam2, shell
Related formsclam·like, adjectiveclam·mer, noun

clam

2
[klam]

noun

British Dialect. clamp(defs 1–3).
Machinery. (formerly) pincers.

Origin of clam

2
before 1000; Middle English; Old English, derivative of clamm fetter, grasp; cognate with German Klamm fetter; akin to clamp
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for clam

clam

1

noun

any of various burrowing bivalve molluscs of the genera Mya, Venus, etc. Many species, such as the quahog and soft-shell clam, are edible and Tridacna gigas is the largest known bivalve, nearly 1.5 metres long
the edible flesh of such a mollusc
informal a reticent person

verb clams, clamming or clammed

(intr) mainly US to gather clams
See also clam up

Word Origin for clam

C16: from earlier clamshell, that is, shell that clamps; related to Old English clamm fetter, Old High German klamma constriction; see clamp 1

clam

2

verb clams, clamming or clammed

a variant of clem
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

Word Origin and History for clam
n.

bivalve mollusk, c.1500, in clam-shell, originally Scottish, apparently a particular use from Middle English clam "pincers, vice, clamp" (late 14c.), from Old English clamm "bond, fetter, grip, grasp," from Proto-Germanic *klam- "to press or squeeze together" (cf. Old High German klamma "cramp, fetter, constriction," German Klamm "a constriction"). If this is right then the original reference is to the shell. Clam-chowder attested from 1822. To be happy as a clam is from 1833, but the earliest uses do not elaborate on the notion behind it, unless it be self-containment.

v.

"to dig for clams," 1630s, American English, from clam (n.). Clam up "be quiet" is 1916, American English, but clam was used in this sense as an interjection mid-14c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with clam

clam

In addition to the idiom beginning with clam

  • clam up

also see:

  • happy as the day is long (as a clam)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.