"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.
"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. Compare batch/bake. Probably from a Scandinavian source (such as Old Norse klekja "to hatch"), perhaps of imitative origin (compare cluck (v.)).
Old English clyccan "bring together, bend (the fingers), clench," from PIE *klukja- (source also of 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.
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