Old English clyccan "bring together, bend (the fingers), clench," from PIE *klukja- (cf. 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.