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See more synonyms for clinker on Thesaurus.com
  1. a mass of incombustible matter fused together, as in the burning of coal.
  2. a hard Dutch brick, used especially for paving.
  3. a partially vitrified mass of brick.
  4. the scale of oxide formed on iron during forging.
  5. Geology. a mass of vitrified material ejected from a volcano.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to form clinkers in burning.
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Origin of clinker1

First recorded in 1635–45, clinker is from the Dutch word klinker kind of brick, slag


  1. a person or thing that clinks.
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Origin of clinker2

First recorded in 1680–90; clink1 + -er1


noun Slang.
  1. a wrong note in a musical performance.
  2. any mistake or error.
  3. something that is a failure; a product of inferior quality.
  4. British. someone or something wonderful or exceedingly well-liked.
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Origin of clinker3

First recorded in 1830–40; special use of clinker2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for clinker

Historical Examples

  • The very day after I wrote my last, Clinker was set at liberty.

    The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

    Tobias Smollett

  • Clinker perceived the progress he had made, and repined in secret.

  • "Well, we are here," said Artie, after Clinker's wound had been examined and dressed.

    An Undivided Union

    Oliver Optic

  • Soon they came in sight of General, Clinker, and one other of the slaves.

    An Undivided Union

    Oliver Optic

  • Clinker can rouse out every Unionist within two miles of here.

    An Undivided Union

    Oliver Optic

British Dictionary definitions for clinker


  1. the ash and partially fused residues from a coal-fired furnace or fire
  2. Also called: clinker brick a hard brick used as a paving stone
  3. a partially vitrified brick or mass of brick
  4. slang, mainly US something of poor quality, such as a film
  5. US and Canadian slang a mistake or fault, esp a wrong note in music
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  1. (intr) to form clinker during burning
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Word Origin

C17: from Dutch klinker a type of brick, from obsolete klinckaerd, literally: something that clinks (referring to the sound produced when one was struck), from klinken to clink 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for clinker


"mass of slag," 1769, from klincard (1640s), a type of paving brick made in Holland, from Dutch klinkaerd, from klinken "to ring" (as it does when struck), of imitative origin. Also "a clinch-nail;" hence clinker-built (1769). The meaning "stupid mistake" is first recorded 1950 in American English; originally (1942) "a wrong note in music."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper