the shell of a clam.
an object that has two hinged parts and that opens and closes like a clamshell, as a laptop computer or a box with a cover joined on one side: This clamshell is lightweight, convenient, and as powerful as my desktop computer.
  1. Also called clamshell bucket.a dredging bucket opening at the bottom, consisting of two similar pieces hinged together at the top.
  2. a machine equipped with such a bucket.
Printing. a platen press.


of or noting an object that opens and closes like a clamshell: a clamshell phone; clamshell packaging.

Origin of clamshell

1490–1500; earlier clam-shell; see clam1, shell Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for clam-shell

Historical Examples of clam-shell

  • The flies were the Philistines, and I took a clam-shell for the jaw-bone; it did just as well.

    Captain January

    Laura E. Richards

  • She watched him while he tried to break a clam-shell between the two rocks.


    Leslie Burton Blades

  • Though he drank and drank again from the water which he had brought in the clam-shell, no quantity seemed to assuage his thirst.

    The Rival Crusoes

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • He stretched out his hand towards the clam-shell which had contained his stock of water, but it was empty.

    The Rival Crusoes

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • The pebbles for the concrete were delivered by contract and were unloaded from scows by clam-shell bucket into a hopper.

    Concrete Construction

    Halbert P. Gillette

British Dictionary definitions for clam-shell



mainly US a dredging bucket that is hinged like the shell of a clam
  1. an aircraft cockpit canopy hinged at the front and rear
  2. the hinged door of a cargo aircraft
  3. another name for eyelid (def. 2)
any of a variety of objects hinged like the shell of a clam, such as a container for takeaway food, a portable computer, etc
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-shell

c.1500; see clam (n.) + shell (n.). As "hinged iron box or bucket used in dredging," from 1877.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper