often attributive
: 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
: earth, mud
: a substance that resembles clay in plasticity and is used for modeling
: the human body as distinguished from the spirit
: fundamental nature or character
the common clay
clayey adjective
clayish adjective
claylike adjective

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The excess fabric of a hooded gown gathers around the body like the malleable clay on a spinning pottery wheel, falling in a way that feels deeply personal — intimate, even. Tara Gonzalez, Harper's BAZAAR, 30 Nov. 2022 The sides of the container can also crack, with the clay coming off in thin sheets. Tim Johnson, Chicago Tribune, 27 Nov. 2022 Also included is a letter stamp kit with letter holder to stamp baby’s name and birthdate onto the clay. Ysolt Usigan, Woman's Day, 15 Nov. 2022 Its redness is close to the clay used to make brick, but is also the colour of the warriors' uniform. Breanna Davis,, 2 Nov. 2022 The ancient art of making pottery is often described as therapeutic given the focus needed to create a piece of artwork, the act of physically using the wheel and feeling the clay. Los Angeles Times, 2 Nov. 2022 The coach then grabs her by the jacket and swings her down to the clay. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, 2 Nov. 2022 Remove the clay, gently unwrap the parchment and remove the bay leaves. CNN, 16 Oct. 2022 The clay allows for compaction, while the sand ensures the soil can accept penetration of water for optimum grip between the tires and dirt. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 14 Oct. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near clay

Cite this Entry

“Clay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


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

Biographical Definition

Clay 1 of 2

biographical name (1)

Henry 1777–1852 American statesman and orator


2 of 2

biographical name (2)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on clay

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