Clam up


      • become silent or refuse to speak
        To suddenly stop talking or sharing information, often due to feeling nervous, embarrassed, or secretive

      • become quiet or still
        To become silent or still, often due to an external factor such as a loud noise or a sudden interruption

    Examples of Clam up

    • Sarah was interrogated by the police after her car was found at the crime scene. But instead of giving any information, she clammed up.

      In this example, "clam up" means to remain silent and not reveal any information. Sarah is refusing to speak or cooperate with the police despite being questioned.

    • During the team meeting, the manager asked for opinions and suggestions regarding the new project. But the coworkers clammed up, unsure of what to say.

      In this example, "clam up" illustrates the hesitation and reluctance of the coworkers to speak during the meeting. They may be uncertain about the project or the implications of their suggestions.

    • The lawyer told his client to clam up during the court hearing as any further statements could harm his case.

      In this example, "clam up" implies refraining from speaking to avoid making a mistake or damaging one's situation. The lawyer is advising his client to remain quiet to minimize the negative consequences of any additional testimonies.

    • After the unexpected outcome, the competitors were left speechless, clamming up within themselves.

      In this example, "clamming up within themselves" is a variation of "clam up". Here, it symbolizes the inner silence and contemplation of the competitors. They might be surprised or disappointed with the results and need time to process their thoughts.

    • The witness suddenly clammed up during the court hearing, refusing to testify any further.

      The witness became silent and stopped speaking, possibly due to fear, intimidation, or lack of memory. The expression "clam up" implies that the person has closed up like a clam and is unwilling to reveal any more information.

    • My great-aunt has always been tight-lipped about her past, but today she really clammed up when I asked her about her childhood.

      My great-aunt has a history of being uncommunicative, but today she appeared even more reserved and reluctant to divulge details about her past experiences. By using the expression "clammed up," I'm implying that my aunt's silence was more pronounced than usual, leading me to believe that she may be hiding something.

    • The sales manager clammed up as soon as the CEO entered the room, looking nervous and uncomfortable.

      The sales manager suddenly fell silent and appeared uneasy when the CEO appeared, possibly because they were discussing a sensitive issue that the CEO wanted to keep confidential. The expression "clammed up" is used to illustrate the manager's abrupt switch from speaking to remaining silent.

    • The admiral clammed up during the crisis meeting, failing to offer any suggestions or solutions.

      The admiral remained silent and did not contribute any ideas during the critical meeting, possibly because they were lacking in knowledge or confidence. The expression "clammed up" emphasizes the admiral's failure to communicate any helpful input, leaving the other participants to handle the situation on their own.


    The idiom "clam up" is used to describe the act of becoming silent or refusing to speak. This can be for various reasons, such as feeling nervous or not wanting to share information. It can also refer to becoming quiet or still in response to an external factor.

    In both cases, the intention behind the idiom is to convey a sudden and complete lack of communication or expression. It can imply a sense of shutting down or closing off, both mentally and verbally. This idiom is often used in informal situations and can have a negative connotation, suggesting that the speaker is being uncooperative or withholding information.

    Origin of "Clam up"

    The origin of the idiom "clam up" is uncertain, but it is believed to have originated in the early 1900s in the United States. The origin of the word "clam" in this context likely comes from the idea of a clamshell closing tightly and preventing anything from getting in or out. This imagery is often used to describe someone who has suddenly stopped talking or sharing information.

    Another theory suggests that the idiom may have originated from the practice of fishermen keeping clams in buckets and covering them to keep them quiet. This could have been used as a metaphor for someone becoming silent or quiet.

    Regardless of its exact origin, the idiom "clam up" has been in use for over a century and continues to be a common expression in English. Its versatility and concise description make it a popular choice for describing the act of becoming silent or still.