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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”, in Guardian[1]:
      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
    • 1980, Colin Thubron, Seafarers: The Venetians, page 33:
      The Byzantines, wrote Robert of Clari, hooted and jeered from the battlements, "and let down their clouts and showed them their backsides."
  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, page 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