Definition of clan in English:



  • 1A group of close-knit and interrelated families (especially associated with families in the Scottish Highlands)

    • ‘Highland society in general, however, was organized into that most celebrated of Scottish institutions, the clan.’
    • ‘Let us go back in time where Scottish tartan denoted the clan you belonged too.’
    • ‘The Tang Dynasty appointed local clan chieftains to govern for them.’
    • ‘Outside the immediate family, the lineage and the clan are the most common descent groups.’
    • ‘The Scottish have used tartan patterns for centuries to identify the clan, family or regiment with which the wearer is associated.’
    • ‘In addition, nearly every Rajput clan has its own patron god to whom it turns for protection.’
    • ‘"Kaya, watch your mouth, you're talking to your clan leader!’
    • ‘Since the early 1990s, Somalia has suffered from a civil war between rival clans.’
    • ‘Where I'm from, my family had to hide from rival Somalia clans.’
    • ‘However, these villages' customary landowner clans refused the dam's construction, outlining several reasons.’
    • ‘They descended from clans in present-day Guangxi province after the fall of the Han Dynasty in AD 220.’
    • ‘Tartan ties, scarves and even a map of the Scottish clans filled the window of the shop.’
    • ‘But the strong tradition of upholding the clan makes for mutual support and a sharing and egalitarian instinct.’
    • ‘The clans have loosely defined territories, and prolonged wars, often spanning generations, were once common between clans.’
    • ‘The new clan chieftain was announced out of an initial 10 nominees.’
    • ‘Other Rajput clans trace their ancestry to the Sun or Moon.’
    • ‘Persons with different surnames may share a common clan name, revealing a relationship along the lineage.’
    • ‘People of the same clan claim a common totem (dodem, do daim, or do dam), the symbol of a living creature.’
    • ‘Formal education used to be of little significance among ruling and landowning Rajput clans.’
    • ‘Land ownership was nonexistant in the Arabian desert, instead there was collective control over the oases, pastures, and wells, and mostly the stronger clans controlled the best territories.’
    group of families, sept, gens
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1informal A family, especially a large one.
      ‘the Kennedy clan gathered for the celebration’
      • ‘The entire Wade clan was gathered there, including Devon, who was entertaining himself with the terrier.’
      • ‘Romeo and Juliet had the visible force of warring clans to defeat their love.’
      • ‘This member of the Miller clan had no interest in seeing the view from his cousins' perspective.’
      • ‘But her son is a doctor, something the entire clan is very proud of.’
      • ‘The whole family will be reunited in Marbella next week when the Masterson clan gathers in the villa.’
      • ‘So when the extended clan gathers for the twins' eightieth birthday it is a necessarily complex arrangement.’
      • ‘Yet he has his own life, and it remains uncertain whether he will attend the next big Mortimer clan gathering in Long Island this Christmas.’
      • ‘The occasion was her birthday and the whole clan had gathered for the celebration.’
      • ‘I'm not alone in my interest in the Osbourne clan.’
      • ‘She found the entire clan in the common room and she said down next to Chris.’
    2. 1.2A group of people with a strong common interest.
      ‘New York's garrulous clan of artists’
      • ‘The clan gather at the pub at 8pm and new members are always made welcome.’
      • ‘Yes, Elinor is the eccentric one of our little clan.’
      • ‘He's always out with his little clan of jocks, anyways.’
      • ‘Often it's a matter of conflicting interests with no resolution at a higher level than the interests - warring clans, greedy industries.’


Late Middle English: from Scottish Gaelic clann offspring, family from Old Irish cland, from Latin planta sprout.