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 Minimalists the world round will delight in Tokoname’s rounded clay stone, which has been molded and polished in an ancient kiln in Japan. Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "The 17 Best Essential Oil Diffusers for a Calm Space and Clear Mind," 4 Jan. 2021 Before fastening the lid, Ram Singh packs the rims with a clay and cotton mash, which hardens and creates a formidable seal. Travel, "This ancient town is the perfume capital of India," 4 Jan. 2021 Benelli also produced the excellent M1 Super 90 and Montefeltro lines of 3-inch 12- and 20-gauge guns that were also very popular with hunters and clay-target shooters. John Gordon, Outdoor Life, "Are Today’s New Hunting Shotguns Really Worth the Price? Here Are 4 Used (and Cheaper) Models to Consider," 4 Jan. 2021 Also, Clay Fingers gifted her classes with extra clay, which means there are more projects scheduled for this year. John Benson, cleveland, "Lakewood STEM students make clay robots over Zoom with South Korean company," 31 Dec. 2020 Celebrating 30 years, with painting, mixed media, photography, clay sculpture. Elaine Rewolinski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "What’s going on in southeastern Wisconsin area this winter," 30 Dec. 2020 After all, he's made of the clay from Hell, which gave him a unique right to the throne. Martha Sorren,, "What You Actually Need To Remember From Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Part 3," 30 Dec. 2020 Conditions remained challenging, with the clay ground still too unstable for emergency workers to walk on and temperatures registering -1 Celsius (30F) at 0600 GMT. NBC News, "Norwegian rescuers hunt for 10 missing after landslide," 30 Dec. 2020 In northwest Oregon, Douglas-fir especially does not do well on heavy clay that is poorly drained. oregonlive, "Careful winter pruning may help avoid disturbing early nesting hummingbirds: Ask an expert," 26 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for clay

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for clay

Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Clay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for clay


How to pronounce Clay (audio)

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

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