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

Keep scrolling for more

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

The project incorporated original brick, orange clay tile, raw concrete and terrazzo flooring materials with new glazing complementary wood, steel and felt. Houston Chronicle, "Golf out, lounging in at renovated Greenway Plaza Sky Terrace," 5 July 2019 Insurance costs are higher for older homes, houses that have more than one story, those built on sandy soil instead of clay or rock and those that are not up to code, the California Department of Insurance says. Faith Karimi, CNN, "Your homeowner's or renter's insurance won't help much after an earthquake. Here's why," 5 July 2019 Across the grounds, Stefanos Tsitsipas (No. 6)—who, within the past twelve months, defeated Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on hard courts and Rafael Nadal on clay—was stumbling against a free-swinging Italian, Thomas Fabbiano (No. Louisa Thomas, The New Yorker, "A Round of Upsets at Wimbledon, and the Big Story of Tennis," 3 July 2019 Another plus was that South Carolina is replete with kaolin, a type of clay used in making fiberglass. Don Lee,, "Casualty of trade war: Chinese investments in U.S. grind to a halt, blocking new jobs," 1 July 2019 At Westport Stadium, a season-high 7,300 fans see Baltimore’s Bob Whay defeat Peewee Pobletts, of Randallstown, in the 50-lap feature stock car race on the 1/5-mile clay oval. Mike Klingaman,, "This Week in Baltimore Sports History: Ripken, Mussina combine for grand triumph," 30 June 2019 The field, home to West Ham United of the English Premier League, now has 141,913 square feet of artificial turf atop the playing surface, 350 tons of clay from Slippery Rock, Pa., and 345 tons of dirt from Chicago and Middleton, Wisc. Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY, "MLB London Series: With hitter-friendly dimensions, expect to see plenty of home runs from Red Sox and Yankees," 27 June 2019 There’s seven lakes, the pristine fly-fishing waters of the White River, miles of horseback riding and hiking trails, a sporting clays course, a long range rifle course, and 8,350 acres of private elk and deer hunting. Matt Schubert, The Denver Post, "Golfer Greg Norman’s Colorado ranch — featuring seven lakes, a dance hall and 11,600 acres — can be yours for $50 million," 27 June 2019 Backhoes peel away the sandy beds of scores of rivers, exposing bare channels of bedrock, silt, and clay. Paul Salopek, National Geographic, "Inside the deadly world of India’s sand mining mafia," 26 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about clay

Dictionary Entries near clay


claw tool






Statistics for clay

Last Updated

8 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for clay

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on clay

What made you want to look up clay? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


providing supplementary assistance

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!