clam up

clam

1 [klam]
noun
1.
any of various bivalve mollusks, especially certain edible species. Compare quahog, soft-shell clam.
2.
Informal. a secretive or silent person.
4.
Slang. a dollar or the sum of a dollar: I only made 60 clams a week.
verb (used without object), clammed, clamming.
5.
to gather or dig clams.
Verb phrases
6.
clam up, Slang. to refuse to talk or reply; refrain from talking or divulging information: The teacher asked who had thrown the eraser, but the class clammed up.

Origin:
1585–95; short for clam-shell, i.e., bivalve with a shell that clamps. See clam2, shell

clamlike, adjective
clammer, noun
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
clam1 (klæm)
 
n
1.  any of various burrowing bivalve molluscs of the genera Mya, Venus, etc. Many species, such as the quahog and soft-shell clam, are edible and Tridacna gigas is the largest known bivalve, nearly 1.5 metres long
2.  the edible flesh of such a mollusc
3.  informal a reticent person
 
vb , clams, clamming, clammed
4.  chiefly (US) (intr) to gather clams
 
[C16: from earlier clamshell, that is, shell that clamps; related to Old English clamm fetter, Old High German klamma constriction; see clamp1]

clam2 (klæm)
 
vb , clams, clamming, clammed
a variant of clem

clam up
 
vb
informal (intr, adverb) to keep or become silent or withhold information

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

clam
c.1500, "bivalve mollusk," originally Scottish, from M.E. clam "pincers, vice, clamp," from O.E. clamm "bond, fetter," from P.Gmc. *klam-. Clambake is from 1835. Clam up is 1916, Amer.Eng., but clam was used in this sense as an interjection c.1350.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

clam up

Refuse to talk or respond, as in Whenever she asks her teenager about his activities, he clams up. This term alludes to the tightly closed valves of a live clam. [Slang; early 1900s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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