clan


clan
clanless, adj.
/klan/, n.
1. a group of families or households, as among the Scottish Highlanders, the heads of which claim descent from a common ancestor: the Mackenzie clan.
2. a group of people of common descent; family: Our whole clan got together for Thanksgiving.
3. a group of people, as a clique, set, society, or party, esp. as united by some common trait, characteristic, or interest: a clan of actors and directors.
4. Anthropol.
a. the principal social unit of tribal organization, in which descent is reckoned exclusively in either the paternal or the maternal line.
b. a group of people regarded as being descended from a common ancestor.
[1375-1425; late ME (Scots) < ScotGael clann < OIr cland offspring < L planta scion, PLANT, perh. directly < Brit. Celtic; cf. Welsh plant children]

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Kinship group based on actual or purported descent from a common ancestor, as traced through the male (patriclan) or the female (matriclan) line.

Clans are normally exogamous, marriage within the clan being regarded as incest. Clans may segment into subclans or lineages, and genealogical records and myths may be altered to incorporate new members who lack kinship ties with the clan. Clan membership may be useful in ensuring mutual support and defense as well as in the mediation of disputes over property rights and the mode of residence after marriage. Some clans express their unity by means of a common emblem. See also exogamy and endogamy.

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▪ kinship group
 kin (kinship) group used as an organizational device in many traditional societies. Membership in a clan is traditionally defined in terms of descent from a common ancestor. This descent is usually unilineal, or derived only through the male (patriclan) or the female (matriclan) line. Normally, but not always, the clans are exogamous (exogamy), or out-marrying: marriage within the clan is forbidden and regarded as a form of incest. Clans may segment into subclans or lineages (lineage), and genealogical (genealogy) records or myths (myth) may be altered to incorporate new members who have no biological relation to the clan.

      Until the later 20th century, clans were a phenomenon of great interest to anthropologists (anthropology), but since then they have generally become less important in analyses of cultural organization. From a functional perspective, clans help to unify groups by cross-cutting other forms of social organization, such as the settlement, postmarital residence patterns, or age sets (age set). Allied clans generally have reciprocal relations, providing each other with mutual support and defense and with emotionally or financially taxing services such as funerals. Some clans express their unity in terms of the possession of a common emblem, which may represent the ancestral being or common origin of the members and, as such, is often an object of reverence.

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Universalium. 2010.

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