verb (used with object)
  1. to seize with or as with the hands or claws; snatch: The bird swooped down and clutched its prey with its claws.
  2. to grip or hold tightly or firmly: She clutched the child's hand as they crossed the street.
  3. Slang. to spellbind; grip a person's emotions, attention, or interest: Garbo movies really clutch me.
verb (used without object)
  1. to try to seize or grasp (usually followed by at): He clutched at the fleeing child. She clutched at the opportunity.
  2. Slang. to become tense with fright; panic (sometimes followed by up): I clutched up on the math exam.
  3. to operate the clutch in a vehicle.
  1. the hand, claw, etc., when grasping.
  2. Usually clutches. power of disposal or control; mastery: She fell into the clutches of the enemy.
  3. the act of clutching; a snatch or grasp.
  4. a tight grip or hold.
  5. a device for gripping something.
  6. Automotive, Machinery.
    1. a mechanism for readily engaging or disengaging a shaft with or from another shaft or rotating part.Compare coupling(def 2a).
    2. a control, as a pedal, for operating this mechanism.
  7. Sports. an extremely important or crucial moment of a game: He was famous for his coolness in pitching in the clutch.
  8. any critical position or situation; emergency: She kept complete control in the clutch.
  9. Also called clutch bag, clutch purse. a woman's small purse that can be carried in the hand and usually has no handle or strap.
  1. done or accomplished in a critical situation: a clutch shot that won the basketball game.
  2. dependable in crucial situations: a clutch player.
  3. (of a coat) without fasteners; held closed in front by one's hand or arm.

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for clutchy


  1. (tr) to seize with or as if with hands or claws
  2. (tr) to grasp or hold firmly
  3. (intr usually foll by at) to attempt to get hold or possession (of)
  1. 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
  2. a device for holding fast
  3. a firm grasp
  4. a hand, claw, or talon in the act of clutchingin the clutches of a bear
  5. (often plural) power or controlin the clutches of the Mafia
  6. 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


  1. a hatch of eggs laid by a particular bird or laid in a single nest
  2. a brood of chickens
  3. informal a group, bunch, or cluster
  1. (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 clutchy



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 clutchy


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.