Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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CLAMS, Also in sing. forms clam, klam(m), see section 2.

1. “A sort of strong pincers used by ship-wrights, for drawing large nails” (n.Sc. 1808 Jam.).

2. “A kind of vice, generally made of wood; used by artificers, of different classes, for holding any thing fast” (Sc. Ib.; Sh. 1908 Jak. (1928), klamm, clam; Bnff.2, Abd.2 1940, clams); “a wooden cramp or vice used by boatbuilders” (Sh. 1914 Angus Gl., klam); a shoemaker's clamp; cf. Clamish. This seems gen. to be written clamp now in Eng. (see Concise). The form clam is not given at all with this meaning in Un. Eng. Dict. Sc. 1867 N. Macleod Starling (1881) i.:
Ye ken, John, I'm a shoemaker, and it's a dull trade, and squeezing the clams against the wame is ill for digestion.
Sh. 1931 J. Nicolson Shet. Incidents and Tales 22:
The first three [lairds] are said to have furnished “clams,” a sort of grapling, while Lunna, it was stated, supplied an “engine.”
Ags. 1912 J. A. Duthie Rhymes and Reminisc. 78:
The sooter's wife shoed buits too, wi' the “clams” atween her legs.

3. “Pincers of iron employed for castrating horses, bulls, etc.” (Rxb. 1825 Jam.2; 1923 Watson W.-B.). Cf. Clampers.

4. “The instrument, resembling a forceps, employed in weighing gold” (Abd. 1808 Jam.). Abd. 1790 A. Shirrefs Poems 360:
The brightest gowd that e'er I saw Was grippet in the clams.

5. Fig.

(1) Grasp, clutches (Rxb. 1923 Watson W.-B.). Rxb. a.1860 J. Younger Autobiog. (1881) 92:
Ye're just i' the clams o' them that can manage ye.

(2) In phr. in the clams, of a boat: “caught head-on to the wind” (Gall. 1940 (per Lnk.11)).

[O.Sc. clammis,, clamps, pincers, a.1400 (D.O.S.T.). O.E. clamm, grasp; bond, chain (Sweet); Norw. klamme, fetter, clamp (Falk and Torp); Ger. klamm, clamp.]

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"Clams n. pl.1". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 27 Sep 2021 <>



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