clout

[ klout ]
/ klaʊt /

noun

verb (used with object)

to strike, especially with the hand; cuff.
Archaic.
  1. to bandage.
  2. to patch; mend.

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Today, the slang "clout" is like a mix of popularity and power on social media. So, what does it mean?

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Origin of clout

before 900; Middle English; Old English clūt piece of cloth or metal; cognate with Middle Low German klūte,Old Norse klūtr

OTHER WORDS FROM clout

clouter, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does clout mean?

To have clout is to have influence or power. In popular culture, people with clout are seen as popular and cool.

Where did the term clout come from?

Clout long predates Instagram. The slang appears as early as the 1860s for “political influence,” apparently based on a centuries-old sense of clout meaning “punch” or “force.” A person with clout can get things done on Capitol Hill or Wall Street.

Clout got new life in the 2000s with the rise of social media. Launching in 2008, an app called Klout calculated a person’s social-media influence with a so-called Klout score. Have a lot of followers and get a lot of likes? You’ve got clout. People are paying attention to you.

Clout spread in the 2010s as a more general slang term meaning popularity and coolness, not unlike having swag or cred or being an influencer. Wearing a Supreme tee, some fresh kicks, and a pair of white, round sunglasses? You’re hip. You’re on point. You’ve got clout.

Speaking of white, round sunglasses, rapper Denzel Curry memorably called them his Clout Goggles. As we noted in our entry for the term, the glasses, iconically worn by rocker Kurt Cobain in the 1990s, “demand a confident but countercultural wearer.” Hip-hop artists in the early 2010s like Lil Yachty, Wiz Khalifa, and the aforementioned Denzel Curry—all of whom have clout, we could say—helped repopularize them.

How to use the term clout

While the political sway of most rappers is debatable, there’s no doubt they influence social media and popular culture. Clout lives in those interconnected realms, where wearing those famed Clout Goggles can get you a lot of likes on Instagram. Rappers have so much clout, we could say, that they helped make clout a trendy slang term.

Clout can be used ironically, though, as internet clout can’t always be cashed in on IRL. Clout chasers, or those that do things just to project a hipper persona on social media, are greatly disliked, deemed superficial and fake.

And if you do have clout? Don’t go proclaiming it or you might find yourself without it—unless your Denzel Curry. He can boast about his clout all he wants.

Clout, as a more general term for a person’s influence and power especially in domains like politics and business, still remains in wide use.

More examples of clout:

“RiceGum is continuing to take shots at Klein, further addressing the issue in a vlog published on January 11. Le hit back at claims of ‘clout-chasing’ due to using both Klein’s and PewDiePie’s images in the thumbnail of his apology video, as well as using PewDiePie’s name in the title (which was later removed).”
—Virginia Glaze, Dexerto, January 2019

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for clout

British Dictionary definitions for clout

clout
/ (klaʊt) /

noun

verb (tr)

informal to give a hard blow to, esp with the hand
to patch with a piece of cloth or leather

Derived forms of clout

clouter, noun

Word Origin for clout

Old English clūt piece of metal or cloth, clūtian to patch (C14: to strike with the hand); related to Dutch kluit a lump, and to clod
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