Last modified on 24 May 2014, at 12:52




Old English clūt, from Proto-Germanic *klūtaz, from Proto-Indo-European *glūdos. Cognate with Old Norse klútr (kerchief)[1] (Swedish klut, Danish klud), Middle High German klōz (lump) (German Kloß), dialect Russian глуда (gluda)[2]. See also cleat. The sense "influence, especially political" originated in the dialect of Chicago, but has become widespread.



clout (plural clouts)

  1. Influence or effectiveness, especially political.
    • 2011 December 15, Felicity Cloake, “How to cook the perfect nut roast”, Guardian:
      The chopped mushrooms add depth to both the Waitrose and the Go-Go Vegan recipe, but what gives the latter some real clout on the flavour front is a teaspoon of Marmite. Vegetarian tweeter Jessica Edmonds tells me her boyfriend likes a similar recipe because "it tastes of Twiglets!". I'm with him – frankly, what's Christmas without a Twiglet? – but Annie Bell's goat's cheese has given me an idea for something even more festive. Stilton works brilliantly with parsnips, providing a savoury richness which feels a little more special than common or garden yeast extract. Blue cheese calls to mind the chestnuts used by Mary Berry of course, and now I'm on a roll, I pop in some sage and onion too, in a nod to the classic festive stuffing.
  2. (regional, informal) A blow with the hand.
    • 1910, Katherine Mansfield, Frau Brenchenmacher Attends A Wedding
      'Such a clout on the ear as you gave me… But I soon taught you.'
  3. (informal) A home run.
    • 2011, Michael Vega, "Triple double", in The Boston Globe, August 17, 2011, p. C1.
      '... allowed Boston to score all of its runs on homers, including a pair of clouts by Jacoby Ellsbury ...'
  4. (archery) The center of the butt at which archers shoot; probably once a piece of white cloth or a nail head.
    • Shakespeare
      A' must shoot nearer or he'll ne'er hit the clout.
  5. (regional, dated) A swaddling cloth.
  6. (archaic) A cloth; a piece of cloth or leather; a patch; a rag.
    • Spenser
      His garments, nought but many ragged clouts, / With thorns together pinned and patched was.
    • Shakespeare
      a clout upon that head where late the diadem stood
  7. (archaic) An iron plate on an axletree or other wood to keep it from wearing; a washer.
    • 1866, James Edwin Thorold Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, Volume 1, p. 546.
      Clouts were thin and flat pieces of iron, used it appears to strengthen the box of the wheel; perhaps also for nailing on such other parts of the cart as were particularly exposed to wear.
  8. (obsolete) A piece; a fragment.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Chaucer to this entry?)

Derived termsEdit



clout (third-person singular simple present clouts, present participle clouting, simple past and past participle clouted)

  1. To hit, especially with the fist.
  2. To cover with cloth, leather, or other material; to bandage; patch, or mend, with a clout.
    • Latimer
      Paul, yea, and Peter, too, had more skill in [] clouting an old tent than to teach lawyers.
  3. To stud with nails, as a timber, or a boot sole.
  4. To guard with an iron plate, as an axletree.
  5. To join or patch clumsily.
    • P. Fletcher
      if fond Bavius vent his clouted song



  1. ^ clout in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  2. ^ clout in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary