a. A fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet and hardens when heated, consisting primarily of hydrated silicates of aluminum and widely used in making bricks, tiles, and pottery.
b. A hardening or nonhardening material having a consistency similar to clay and used for modeling.
2. Geology A sedimentary material with grains smaller than 0.002 millimeter in diameter.
3. Moist sticky earth; mud.
4. The human body as opposed to the spirit.
[Middle English clei, from Old English clæg.]
clayey (klāē), clayish adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.