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 Meet and chat with sculptor Michael Keropian and be the first to see the clay model for the statue of Elisabeth Bennet, educational visionary, innovator and hero., 17 Sep. 2021 Ibrahim Chombo is Mwasi's cousin and lives in a clay brick house with dirt floors and no electricity. Scott Mclean, CNN, 15 Sep. 2021 What is the art of reading from books written by man when the whole world is a book written by God, even the clay path that leads up to the river? Olga Tokarczuk, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 At Great Meadows Refuge in Concord, there was a least bittern, a Connecticut warbler, and a clay-colored sparrow., 11 Sep. 2021 The smaller, a 1920s Spanish-style spot lined with stucco and clay tile, sold for $8.8 million, records show. Jack Flemming, Los Angeles Times, 11 Sep. 2021 The water, a mix of silt and clay, is a ruddy chocolate brown all the way out to the estuary where the river meets the bay. Katherine Laidlaw, Wired, 9 Sep. 2021 Indeed, the miniatures — lumpen clay armchairs and occasional tables that Valle arranges and rearranges inside shoebox versions of their ultimate destinations — are closer to dollhouse furniture than to showpiece renderings. New York Times, 9 Sep. 2021 Dillard said proceeds from the clay shoot generated about $45,000, with roughly $30,000 going to the purchase of equipment for the Aerial Response Team. Billy Kobin, The Courier-Journal, 7 Sep. 2021

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

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

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Last Updated

22 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Clay.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Sep. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on clay

Nglish: Translation of clay for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of clay for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about clay


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