What Is a Scallop?

When something is “scalloped,” it is shaped with a series of rounded edges. If you’ve ever eaten the seafood known as scallops, you may have wondered how this creature gave its name to a scallop shape, since the food looks nothing like the shape.

Scallops are actually mollusks, related to the clam and oyster, and they live inside shells just as their relatives do. It’s the shell of the scallop that is “scallop-shaped,” or scalloped.

The creature inside the shell doesn’t look much like the food we eat as scallops either. That’s because we don’t eat the entire scallop, as we do with the clam or oyster, but only the muscle that the scallop uses to open and close its shell.

There are two types of scallops. Those that live in shallow bays have a shell that measures about three inches across. When they’re sold at seafood stores, they’re called “bay scallops.” Those that live in deep water have shells measuring more than six inches across. These are called “sea scallops.”