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 du̇-ˈbin-yən (audio) \ 1897–1978 American general

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Other Words from clay


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

Examples of clay in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Many animals in the park have gotten stuck in the clay while trying to reach Long Pool, the largest of the watering holes. Washington Post, "Elephants dying from lack of water, food in southern Africa," 7 Nov. 2019 The walls will be made of precast concrete and tinted to resemble the red clay of North Carolina, said architect Michael Stevenson of Perkins and Will. USA TODAY, "Pooch hit by car goes for ride, manatee rescued, unusual toilet paper roller: News from around our 50 states," 1 Nov. 2019 This miraculous snapshot of Pleistocene life featured 12 men, four women and seven children who had walked across the soft clay around the lake, which dried like concrete in the sun. David Maurice Smith, Smithsonian, "A 42,000-Year-Old Man Finally Goes Home," 23 Aug. 2019 The clay was first spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), prior to the launch of Curiosity. Fox News, "7 years on Mars, NASA Curiosity rover celebrates anniversary with new finds," 9 Aug. 2019 The clay had felt dank and solid in my hand; its weight meant something, somehow. Globe Staff,, "At the Peabody Essex, exhibition dares museumgoers to trade iPhones for balls of clay," 8 Aug. 2019 And attendees of all ages can participate in the Clay for All, an interactive clay project designed with parents and kids in mind. Linda Zavoral, The Mercury News, "130 glass blowers, clay artists converge at Palo Alto festival," 8 July 2019 There was a constant and possibly accelerating bustle of construction, with a vast highway being carved from the clay and numerous new high-end residences littering the skyline. Musa Okwonga, Quartz Africa, "On returning to Uganda, Museveni’s staying power and the significance of Bobi Wine," 30 May 2019 Opportunities Wing & Barrel: Sporting clays, skeet and trap shooting has evolved into a private affair where those who love the sport don’t have many public ranges to go to. Tom Stienstra,, "Tom Stienstra’s Outdoors notes: Deer, bears, whales and more," 7 Sep. 2019

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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Statistics for clay

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for clay

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on clay

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for clay

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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