adjective, clam·mi·er, clam·mi·est.

covered with a cold, sticky moisture; cold and damp: clammy hands.
sickly; morbid: She had a clammy feeling that something was wrong at home.

Origin of clammy

1350–1400; Middle English, equivalent to Middle English clam sticky, cold and damp + -y -y1
Related formsclam·mi·ly, adverbclam·mi·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for clammy

Contemporary Examples of clammy

  • Beads of sweat now covered his forehead, and his arms and legs were clammy.

    The Daily Beast logo
    When Everything Changed

    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

    March 11, 2011

  • We do not need to revisit the clammy atelier of science class.

    The Daily Beast logo
    TSA Is Not Trying to Kill You

    Kent Sepkowitz

    November 23, 2010

  • Until the threshold of 270 was crossed, the stillness of the clammy night continued to hang over the city.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Capital Goes Nuts

    Simon Schama

    November 6, 2008

Historical Examples of clammy

  • If too cold, it will scarcely rise at all, and will be white and clammy.

  • Until you have shivered in clammy cotton, you cannot realize the importance of this point.

    The Forest

    Stewart Edward White

  • Her own hands were cold and moist, and when she touched the child she thought its skin was clammy.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

  • The engineer winced as Solinski enfolded his hand in a clammy grip.

    The End of Time

    Wallace West

  • He clenched his hands together; they were clammy with sweat, and his brain was in a whirl.

    The Great Hunger

    Johan Bojer

British Dictionary definitions for clammy


adjective -mier or -miest

unpleasantly sticky; moistclammy hands
(of the weather, atmosphere, etc) close; humid
Derived Formsclammily, adverbclamminess, noun

Word Origin for clammy

C14: from Old English clǣman to smear; related to Old Norse kleima, Old High German kleimen
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 clammy

"soft and sticky," late 14c., probably from Middle English clam "viscous, sticky, muddy" (mid-14c.), from Old English clæm "mud, sticky clay," from Proto-Germanic *klaimaz "clay" (cf. Flemish klammig, Low German klamig "sticky, damp," Old English clæman "to smear, plaster;" cf. clay). With -y (2). Related: Clammily; clamminess.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper