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[klan] /klæn/
a group of families or households, as among the Scottish Highlanders, the heads of which claim descent from a common ancestor:
the Mackenzie clan.
a group of people of common descent; family:
Our whole clan got together for Thanksgiving.
a group of people, as a clique, set, society, or party, especially as united by some common trait, characteristic, or interest:
a clan of actors and directors.
  1. the principal social unit of tribal organization, in which descent is reckoned exclusively in either the paternal or the maternal line.
  2. a group of people regarded as being descended from a common ancestor.
Origin of clan
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English (Scots) < Scots Gaelic clann < Old Irish cland offspring < Latin planta scion, plant, perhaps directly < British Celtic; compare Welsh plant children
Related forms
clanless, adjective
interclan, adjective
subclan, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for clan
  • Meanwhile he has concentrated ever more power and wealth in the hands of his own extended family and clan.
  • Their decline discredited social models, such as the nuclear family, which had begun to replace the old patriarchal clan system.
  • Most of this got spun by family retainers into the playful high jinks of a raucous clan.
  • Instead, he suggests, support should be directed towards local leaders and clan elders.
  • One big question raised by the new study is whether any life could survive expulsion from its planetary clan.
  • They're not identical, but there's no sign of genetic differences large enough to explain clan differences.
  • Worker animals dig the burrows that the whole clan inhabits, using their prominent teeth and snouts.
  • It seems that everywhere you find a group of humans, you'll find a clan of rats hiding in the shadows.
  • Every piece of terrain is considered owned or controlled by some tribe or clan.
  • But the result was that ministers owed allegiance not to the government but to the clan elders who nominated them.
British Dictionary definitions for clan


a group of people interrelated by ancestry or marriage
a group of families with a common surname and a common ancestor, acknowledging the same leader, esp among the Scots and the Irish
a group of people united by common characteristics, aims, or interests
Word Origin
C14: from Scottish Gaelic clann family, descendants, from Latin planta sprout, plant1
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
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Word Origin and History for clan

early 15c., from Gaelic clann "family, stock, offspring," akin to Old Irish cland "offspring, tribe," both from Latin planta "offshoot" (see plant (n.)). The Goidelic branch of Celtic (including Gaelic) had no initial p-, so it substituted k- or c- for Latin p-. The same Latin word in (non-Goidelic) Middle Welsh became plant "children."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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