Quohog - Alternative Names

Alternative Names

The hard clam has many alternative common names. It is also known as the Northern quahog, round clam, or chowder clam.

In fish markets there are specialist names for different sizes of this species of clam. The smallest legally harvestable clams are called countnecks, next size up are littlenecks, then topnecks. Above that are the cherrystones, and the largest are called quahogs or chowder clams.

Of all these names, the most distinctive is quahog ( /ˈkwɔːhɒɡ/ KWAW-hog, /ˈkoʊhɒɡ/ KOH-hog, or /kwəˈhɒɡ/ kwə-HOG). This name comes from the Narragansett word "poquauhock" – the word is similar in Wampanoag and some other Algonquian languages – and is first attested in North American English in 1794. As New England Indians made valuable beads called wampum from the shells, especially those colored purple, the species name mercenaria is related to the Latin word for commerce.

In many areas where aquaculture is important, clam farmers have bred specialized versions of these clams with distinctions needed for them to be distinguished in the marketplace. These are quite similar to common 'wild type' Mercenaria clams, except that their shells bear distinctive markings; for example those from Wellfleet, Massachusetts and elsewhere have pronounced wavy or zigzag chestnut-colored lines on their shells, reminiscent of a line of W's running across the shell. These are known as the notata strain of quahogs, which occur naturally in low numbers wherever quahogs are found.

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