Being happy; feeling delighted.
Example: Cody just got done with a job interview. Things didn’t go so well, or so he thought, because a couple weeks later he got the job! Cody was as happy as a clam when he found out the news.
The Origin Of ‘Happy As a Clam’
There are 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. 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 have not eaten today, so I’m feeling famished. After I got home from work and I saw that my wife had prepared a big dinner, I was 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.
Note: The meaning of common idioms can be found with ease, but sometimes, finding their origin is impossible. Indeed, 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, newspapers, and so on.
Anyways, I usually try to find the earliest known appearance of the idiom and include that on the page. Remember, though, that these quotes don’t necessarily mean the phrase originated from that year. It simply means it’s at least that old.