Happy As a Clam

Meaning:

Being happy; feeling delighted.

Example: Cody just got finished with a job interview, but he felt like it went poorly. However, a few weeks later he learned that he got the job! Cody was as happy as a clam when he found out the news.

Synonyms / Related Sayings:
Happy as a pig in mud
On cloud nine
Pleased as punch
A happy little clam.
You can’t see it, but this clam is pretty happy. I think.

The Origin Of ‘Happy As a Clam’

There’s two versions of this phrase. The full version is “as happy as a clam at high tide [or water],” and then there’s the shorter version “as happy as a clam.” Why, though, would a clam would be “happy” in the first place? Well, the reason for that is actually highlighted in the full version of this expression.

Basically, clams are most vulnerable when the tides are low because that’s the time when people can easily dig them up out of the ground. In higher waters, however, clams are far more difficult to find and dig up. Hence, a clam is “happiest” during a high tide, or high waters, because it means they are less likely to be caught and eaten!

The short version of this saying is used by an American poet named John G. Saxe in the Sonnet to a Clam, from 1840:

“Inglorious friend! most confident I am 

Thy life is one of very little ease;

Albeit men mock thee with their similes,

And prate of being ‘happy as a clam!’ “

The full version of the phrase is in use at around the same time, as seen in the Bangor Daily Whig And Courier from 1841:

“Your correspondent has given an interesting, and, undoubtedly correct explanation of the expression: ‘As happy as a clam at high water.’ His pursuits must be anything but Clam-berous, if we may judge from his knowledge of the nature and habit of this interesting little fish.”


Example Sentences

  1. Having had nothing to eat for most of the day, I was as happy as a clam when I came home from work and my wife had prepared a feast for dinner!
  2. Dennis was happy like a clam in high water after the dentist fixed the tooth pain he was experiencing all week long.

Note: The meanings for common idioms can be found with ease, but finding the origins of phrases proves far more challenging. Looking back through history, it’s tough to find the place or person in which a phrase has its roots. We are limited to what can be found in writings, such as books, poems, newspapers, and plays. Often times, phrases will be quoted from century old newspapers or books.

The popular idioms that are quoted, however, are likely already commonly known from their respective times, and thus, are probably older. For instance, an idiom may show up in a newspaper from 1850s, but that does not mean the idiom originated from that newspaper. What that does tell you though, is that the phrase was being used over 150 years ago.