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 hasn’t gone in for a checkup in years, so he was worried that he would have a mouth full of cavities. In the end, the dentist said that his teeth were fine. 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.
- I was as happy as a clam after I saw my daughter take her first steps.
- My doctor prescribed me some medication for my stomach aches and it worked; I was as happy as a clam in high water to finally have some relief from the pain.
- I was really hungry, so when my wife told me she ordered pizza for dinner, I was on cloud nine.
- After receiving an unexpected gift from her friend, she was pleased as punch to see that it was several 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, sport, and food idioms on the front page. There’s also an alphabetical list of common metaphors and phrases that you can access by using the menu at the top.