noun, often attributive
\ ˈklā How to pronounce clay (audio) \

Definition of clay

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : an earthy material that is plastic when moist but hard when fired, that is composed mainly of fine particles of hydrous aluminum silicates and other minerals, and that is used for brick, tile, and pottery specifically : soil composed chiefly of this material having particles less than a specified size
b : earth, mud
2a : a substance that resembles clay in plasticity and is used for modeling
b : the human body as distinguished from the spirit
c : fundamental nature or character the common clay


biographical name (1)
\ ˈklā How to pronounce Clay (audio) \

Definition of Clay (Entry 2 of 3)

Henry 1777–1852 American statesman and orator


biographical name (2)

Definition of Clay (Entry 3 of 3)

Lucius Du Bi*gnon \ du̇-​ˈbin-​yən How to pronounce Clay (audio) \ 1897–1978 American general

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Other Words from clay


clayey \ ˈklā-​ē How to pronounce Clay (audio) \ adjective
clayish \ ˈklā-​ish How to pronounce Clay (audio) \ adjective
claylike \ ˈklā-​ˌlīk How to pronounce Clay (audio) \ adjective

Examples of clay in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Dillard said proceeds from the clay shoot generated about $45,000, with roughly $30,000 going to the purchase of equipment for the Aerial Response Team. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, 7 Sep. 2021 Bathrooms had broken down the week before after a clay pipe deteriorated. New York Times, 7 Sep. 2021 In winter, smoke wafted from clay hearths; in spring, rolling fields were blanketed with poppies. Anand Gopal, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2021 Gardens with sandy and well-drained soils will need more frequent watering to get the plants established, as the soil will dry out more quickly than a heavier clay soil will. Tim Johnson,, 5 Sep. 2021 Come meet the artisans and delight in the demonstrations of centering clay and throwing a pot on a potter’s wheel., 3 Sep. 2021 The natural skincare store invites guests to create their own body scrubs and clay masks from Southern botanicals, fragrances, oils, and other fresh ingredients in workshops held at its flagship location near Forsyth Park. Joni Sweet, Forbes, 31 Aug. 2021 The family that owns Real Minero in Oaxaca has been distilling mezcal in clay pots since the 1800s. Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle, 31 Aug. 2021 The 9,214-square-foot home in Marietta, built in 2008, has the clay-tile roof fashionable in Encino, California, where the show is largely fictionally based. Rodney Ho, ajc, 27 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clay.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of clay


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for clay


Middle English, from Old English clǣg; akin to Old High German klīwa bran, Latin gluten glue, Middle Greek glia

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Learn More About clay

Time Traveler for clay

Time Traveler

The first known use of clay was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

10 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Clay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for clay



English Language Learners Definition of clay

: a heavy, sticky material from the earth that is made into different shapes and that becomes hard when it is baked or dried


\ ˈklā How to pronounce clay (audio) \

Kids Definition of clay

1 : an earthy material that is sticky and easily molded when wet and hard when baked
2 : a substance like clay that is used for modeling

More from Merriam-Webster on clay

Nglish: Translation of clay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of clay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about clay


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