The phrase ‘as happy as a clam’ is a simile that expresses happiness. In other words, people use it as a way of saying they feel delighted.
Example: Cody felt anxious about going to the dentist. He was worried that he would have a mouth full of cavities because he hasn’t gone for a checkup in years. Despite this, the dentist said his teeth were fine, and Cody was as happy as a clam when he heard the news.
Note: This phrase is an example of a simile, which is a type of metaphor. However, what are metaphors? That page explains what they are and also provides simple examples to help you learn.
The Origin Of ‘Happy As a Clam’
There are two versions of this metaphor. 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. On the other hand, higher waters make clams 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.”
This means the phrase is at least 179 years old.
- Hearing my daughter say her first word and watching her first steps were two moments that made me feel as happy as a clam.
- Jeff was experiencing tooth pain all week, so he took a trip to the dentist’s office. Once they relieved him of his agony, he was happy like a clam in high water.
- I was really hungry, so when my wife told me she was bringing home pizza for dinner, I was on cloud nine.
- After receiving an unexpected gift from a friend, she was pleased as punch to get new pairs of socks.
Tip: There are more common phrases on here that you can explore and learn about! In fact, we have a list of animal and sport idioms, an alphabetical list of metaphors and phrases, and more. Just use the menu at the top to find the list. Or if you prefer, use the search bar down below (if on mobile).