noun, often attributive
oys·​ter | \ ˈȯi-stər How to pronounce oyster (audio) \

Definition of oyster

1a : any of various marine bivalve mollusks (family Ostreidae) that have a rough irregular shell closed by a single adductor muscle and include commercially important shellfish
b : any of various mollusks resembling or related to the oysters
2 : something that is or can be readily made to serve one's personal ends the world was her oyster
3 : a small mass of muscle contained in a concavity of the pelvic bone on each side of the back of a fowl
4 : an extremely taciturn person
5 : a grayish-white color

Examples of oyster in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Add oyster sauce, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. People Staff, PEOPLE.com, 1 Aug. 2022 Zhou and other Costco shoppers noted their local stores have added specialty Asian items such as boba ice cream bars, lap cheong and oyster sauce to their rotating inventory in recent years. Hannah Miao, NBC News, 7 June 2022 Thin yellow wheat noodles arrive with a confetti of scallions, red cabbage, carrots and other vegetables, each bite smoky from the wok and splashed with sweet-salty oyster sauce (or mushroom sauce on request). Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 13 May 2022 The rabbit ear is served on a bed of oyster sauce with sea plankton caviar. Silvia Marchetti, CNN, 17 Mar. 2022 Vietnamese influences also inform the cocktails, which will be mixed with such ingredients as pho broth, lime, mint, ginger, condensed milk, lime leaf, cardamom, bean curd, and oyster sauce. Stefene Russell, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Mar. 2022 Her journey seems to overlap with coastal areas of northern Europe that have become home to an invasive species of Pacific oyster, Ryeng said. Caroline Radnofsky, NBC News, 28 July 2022 Olivia Flowers and her parents threw an extravagant oyster party on Thursday's Southern Charm, but of course, not everything went pearl-fectly. Dana Rose Falcone, PEOPLE.com, 28 July 2022 The fungi the Infinity Suit uses, the gray oyster, would also be unable to digest the harsh toxins the body excretes. William Ralston, Wired, 26 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'oyster.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of oyster

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for oyster

Middle English oistre, borrowed from Anglo-French oistre, ostre, going back to Latin ostrea, ostreum "bivalve mollusk, oyster," borrowed from Greek óstreion, óstreon, of uncertain origin

Note: Greek óstreion has traditionally been taken to be a derivative, with a suffix -ei-, of a stem going back to Indo-European *h3esth1-r-, from the base *h3esth1- "bone." See note at ostracon.

Learn More About oyster

Time Traveler for oyster

Time Traveler

The first known use of oyster was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near oyster



oyster agaric

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for oyster

Last Updated

12 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Oyster.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oyster. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for oyster


oys·​ter | \ ˈȯi-stər How to pronounce oyster (audio) \

Kids Definition of oyster

: a shellfish that lives on stony bottoms ( oyster beds ) in shallow seawater, has a rough grayish shell made up of two hinged parts, and is often used for food

More from Merriam-Webster on oyster

Nglish: Translation of oyster for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oyster for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about oyster


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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