• synonyms


  1. any of various bivalve mollusks, especially certain edible species.Compare quahog, soft-shell clam.
  2. Informal. a secretive or silent person.
  3. clamminess.
  4. Slang. a dollar or the sum of a dollar: I only made 60 clams a week.
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verb (used without object), clammed, clam·ming.
  1. to gather or dig clams.
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Verb Phrases
  1. 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.
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Origin of clam1

1585–95; short for clam-shell, i.e., bivalve with a shell that clamps. See clam2, shell
Related formsclam·like, adjectiveclam·mer, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for clammer

Historical Examples

  • “It was because you did not play the part of a clammer naturally and nobly,” I replied.

    The Lady and the Pirate

    Emerson Hough

  • These permits cost 25 cents, and are required from every clammer.

    A Report upon the Mollusk Fisheries of Massachusetts

    Commissioners on Fisheries and Game

  • Brings us once again into touch with those delightful and very human people that we learned to know in 'The Clammer.'

    Old Valentines

    Munson Aldrich Havens

  • A story conceived in the same spirit as 'The Clammer,' filled with the same philosophy, displaying the same keen insight.

    Concerning Sally

    William John Hopkins

  • The invested capital includes the clammer's outfit and boat, but does not include personal apparel, such as boots and oil skins.

    A Report upon the Mollusk Fisheries of Massachusetts

    Commissioners on Fisheries and Game

British Dictionary definitions for clammer


  1. 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
  2. the edible flesh of such a mollusc
  3. informal a reticent person
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verb clams, clamming or clammed
  1. (intr) mainly US to gather clams
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See also clam up

Word Origin

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


verb clams, clamming or clammed
  1. a variant of clem
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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 clammer



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.

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"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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with clammer


In addition to the idiom beginning with clam

  • clam up

also see:

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