Origin of clutch

1175–1225; Middle English clucchen, variant of clicchen, Old English clyccan to clench
Related formsclutch·ing·ly, adverbclutch·y, adjective

Synonyms for clutch

Synonym study

1. See catch.




a hatch of eggs; the number of eggs produced or incubated at one time.
a brood of chickens.
a number of similar individuals: a clutch of books; a whole clutch of dancers.

verb (used with object)

to hatch (chickens).

Origin of clutch

1715–25; variant of cletch (now dial.); akin to Scots cleck to hatch < Old Norse klekja to hatch
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for clutching

Contemporary Examples of clutching

Historical Examples of clutching

  • He climbed down with difficulty, clutching one hand with the other.

  • "I prythee that you will pardon me," said the knight, clutching his way along the bulwark.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • She was back again in the stuffy hotel room, clutching the sheet about her.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • "Let's git out, mister," cried Old Bill, clutching Mortimer's arm.


    W. A. Fraser

  • That clutching pain of grief was real, so real it blotted everything out.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

British Dictionary definitions for clutching




(tr) to seize with or as if with hands or claws
(tr) to grasp or hold firmly
(intr usually foll by at) to attempt to get hold or possession (of)


a device that enables two revolving shafts to be joined or disconnected as required, esp one that transmits the drive from the engine to the gearbox in a vehicle
a device for holding fast
a firm grasp
a hand, claw, or talon in the act of clutchingin the clutches of a bear
(often plural) power or controlin the clutches of the Mafia
Also called: clutch bag a handbag without handles

Word Origin for clutch

Old English clyccan; related to Old Frisian kletsie spear, Swedish klyka clasp, fork




a hatch of eggs laid by a particular bird or laid in a single nest
a brood of chickens
informal a group, bunch, or cluster


(tr) to hatch (chickens)

Word Origin for clutch

C17 (Northern English dialect) cletch, from Old Norse klekja to hatch
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 clutching



Old English clyccan "bring together, bend (the fingers), clench," from PIE *klukja- (cf. Swedish klyka "clamp, fork;" related to cling). Meaning "to grasp" is early 14c.; that of "to seize with the claws or clutches" is from late 14c. Sense of "hold tightly and close" is from c.1600. Influenced in meaning by Middle English cloke "a claw." Related: Clutched; clutching.



"a brood, a nest" in reference to chickens, eggs, 1721, from clekken "to hatch" (c.1400). Said by OED to be apparently a southern England dialect word. Cf. batch/bake. Probably from a Scandinavian source (e.g. Old Norse klekja "to hatch"), perhaps of imitative origin (cf. cluck (v.)).



"a claw, grip, grasp," c.1300, from cloche "claw," from cloke (c.1200), related to clucchen, clicchen (see clutch (v.)). Meaning "grasping hand" (1520s) led to that of "tight grasp" (1784). Related: Clutches.



movable mechanical part for transmitting motion, 1814, from clutch (v.), with the "seizing" sense extended to "device for bringing working parts together." Originally of mill-works, first used of motor vehicles 1899. Meaning "moment when heroics are required" is attested from 1920s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with clutching


see grasp (clutch) at straws.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.