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

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 Tropical woods, greenery, natural clay, and limestone stucco organically bring the outside in. Nina Ruggiero, Travel + Leisure, "You Can Be the First to Stay in This Mexican Resort's Brand New Beachfront Suites or Overwater Villas," 29 July 2020 In contrast, individual attention is demanded from each flower of Transvaal daisies (Gerbera jamesonii), which blossom in shades of salmon, pink and apricot in clay pots on my terrace. Washington Post, "Daisies bring a sunny look to the garden," 7 July 2020 Leck then sketched his new concept before making 8-inch tall clay figurines of the lion, tiger and bear and spray-painting them gold to use for his Photoshop rendering of the mural. Christine Fernando, The Indianapolis Star, "A lion, a tiger and a bear hold up a roof in this optical illusion in a Fishers mural," 11 July 2020 Other AtA programs at the detention center are a twice weekly book club with Jane Back and Lisa Tecco, clay art classes with Joan Zacharias, music classes with Rolando Pizzana, and gardening with Zacharias and Julie Spaite. Mary Jane Brewer, cleveland, "Access the serves elderly, disabled and underprivileged residents of Medina County," 11 July 2020 Fishing gear and boxes of clay pigeons are stashed around the property. John Huey, Southern Living, "The Ultimate Boat Trip Through South Carolina's Undiscovered Lowcountry," 10 July 2020 Potters sculpt vessels with local clay and paint them with ground mineral paints; weavers soak skeins of yarn in dye made from cochineal bugs; and artists carve alebrijes by hand from copal wood and paint them with intricate designs. Lila Battis, Travel + Leisure, "The Top 5 Cities in Mexico," 8 July 2020 The plan is to replace a part of the system that has proven inadequate with a new high-volume main, to be installed in natural clay well below the surface. Scott Huddleston,, "SAWS approves most costly, complex sewer main in San Antonio history to boost service on West Side," 7 July 2020 This one comes in four wearable shades, including redwood (a clay red hue), tobacco, black, and metallic. Rebecca Shinners,, "These Merrell Sandals Are the Most Comfortable Slides I’ve Ever Worn," 3 July 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.

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

Time Traveler for clay

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for clay

Last Updated

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Clay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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!