noun, often attributive
\ ˈklā \

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 \

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 \ 1897–1978 American general

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Other Words from clay


clayey \ ˈklā-​ē \ adjective
clayish \ ˈklā-​ish \ adjective
claylike \ ˈklā-​ˌlīk \ adjective

Examples of clay in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Then, in the 1970s and 1980s, a more-is-more mentality overtook the carpet: Sonny and Cher showed up in 1973 looking fresh out of Studio 54, Cher clay in a heavy fur and groovy midriff-baring ensemble. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "The Best Golden Globes Dresses of All Time," 4 Jan. 2019 Designer Erika Emerén riffed on this technique to produce one-of-a-kind clay vases with tactile surfaces and vibrant glazes. Diana Budds, Curbed, "The most bizarre and brilliant projects from a Dutch design fair," 5 Nov. 2018 Her grandma took her to the studio to give her her first experience sculpting clay, learning how to glaze and create a bowl. Fox News, "The life and legacy of Sen. John McCain," 28 Aug. 2018 Landon, founder of Tortus Ceramics Studio in Copenhagen, transforms lumps of clay into sinuous forms with a graceful hand. Isaiah Freeman-schub, WSJ, "Senior Market Editor Isaiah Freeman-Schub’s Holiday Gift Guide: Man of the World," 12 Dec. 2018 Rafael Nadalwas again victorious on French red clay. Jason Gay, WSJ, "Year in Sports: Truth Wins," 18 Dec. 2018 Take the Tasty Collection by Korean artist Ahryun Lee, with its bright hues and Seussian spikes, which breaths fresh possibilities into the clay medium. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "The 8 Most Inspiring Objects From Design Miami," 14 Dec. 2018 The water-resistant models include day and date function dials in khaki green, clay gray, or black with straps in green camo, khaki, or brown camo. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, "PM Approved: The Hamilton Khaki Field Watch," 13 Nov. 2018 Among the artifacts found were a gilded silver mummy mask, fragments of mummy cartonnages, canopic cylindrical jars and marl clay and faience cups. Fox News, "Archaeologists in Egypt discover ancient mummification workshop," 2 Oct. 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near clay


claw tool






Statistics for clay

Last Updated

21 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for clay

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

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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 \

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on clay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with clay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for clay

Spanish Central: Translation of clay

Nglish: Translation of clay for Spanish Speakers

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

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