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

Examples of clay in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The scientists believed the ship’s remains had sunk into the clay, further concealing its location. Rafael Vilela, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2024 The roundhouse roofs were insulated with straw, topped by turf, and waterproofed with clay. Paul Smaglik, Discover Magazine, 20 Mar. 2024 In the spring and summer, guests have options like river rafting, hiking, mountain biking, clay shooting, and hot-air ballooning. Samantha Falewée, Travel + Leisure, 16 Mar. 2024 The mat comes in white, black, clay, and dark green colors. Lee Alisha Williams, Southern Living, 15 Mar. 2024 Compare that to the clay vessel across the room wrapped in a gold chain, blowing a pink bubblegum bubble. Amanda Rosa, Miami Herald, 7 Mar. 2024 Customers may want more padding on cement and roads than on a clay track. Mason Leib, ABC News, 18 Mar. 2024 The wrapping marks, cut into the clay like a memory made concrete, oscillate between signs of painful bondage and a warm embrace, a tension both social and artistic in 1970s Korean culture. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 15 Mar. 2024 Decades later, after becoming a leader in the field of algebraic geometry, Voisin has again found time to paint and make clay sculptures. Quanta Magazine, 13 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'clay.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 12 Apr. 2024.

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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