English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Is there a slight difference between power and clout in the context of a political influence?

For instance:

Asking China to help the euro world would give a non-eurozone nation the power to decide the fate of the currency

Is clout a perfect synonym of power in that context? Is the meaning the same? Is the level of language the same?

share|improve this question
It's certainly not a "perfect" synonym, because clout is rather informal used in this way, and is somewhat negatively loaded. These connotations are avoided by the alternative ability, which I suggest is a perfect synonym in this context. – FumbleFingers Nov 16 '11 at 16:35
@FumbleFingers 's comment is perfectly eligible for being a full answer – rds Nov 18 '11 at 9:10
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Merriam Webster defines clout as "pull, influence". This distinguishes it by degree from "power"...if you have clout, you may be able to influence the person with the power. But if you have power, you don't need clout.

share|improve this answer
Conversely, it may be said if you have clout, you don't need power. Just sayin'.... – JeffSahol Nov 16 '11 at 18:17
Well, I almost continued that clout could actually be better, because you don't have responsibility and accountability. There was a classic series called Yes, Minister which was basically about showing who was REALLY in power in the British government - the permanent civil service, and not the temporarily elected representatives... – Chris B. Behrens Nov 16 '11 at 18:36
-1 - this is a contrived distinction. – FumbleFingers Nov 16 '11 at 19:20
Here's an interesting example: ACCESS TO POWER: BUILDING POLITICAL CLOUT FOR THE ARTS: nasaa-arts.org/Advocacy/Advocacy-Tools/advocate_access.pdf. – Chris B. Behrens Nov 16 '11 at 19:37
Power, clout, influence, authority, control, etc. are all capable of being used to mean exactly the same thing. Of that (non-exhaustive) list, I'd say that influence is the best one for the "power by association" meaning you ascribe to clout. Some, of course, would say that even politicians don't have the real power - they've just got influence over the ultra-rich people who actually have it. – FumbleFingers Nov 16 '11 at 20:43

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.