Clinton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Clinton Surname Meaning

Clinton has both English and Irish roots.  The principal English derivation is from a place name in Oxfordshire, Glympton.  The lords of Glympton were first Climptons and later Clintons.  A branch of this family transposed itself to County Longford in Ireland in the 1650’s.

There was also in Ireland the Scots/Irish McClintock which sometimes contracted to McClinton and sometimes further to Clinton.

Clinton Surname Resources on the Internet 

Clinton Surname Ancestry

  • from England (Oxfordshire) and from Ireland
  • to America

England.  The Clintons of Oxfordshire were a substantial family, playing their role in English political life, with some interruptions, from the 12th to 19th centuries.  Geoffrey de Clinton was the chamberlain to Henry I and he built Kenilworth castle in Warwickshire.

William Clinton was Lord High Admiral of England in 1333. Seven generations later, Edward Clinton held the same title in Elizabethan times and was ennobled as Lord Lincoln.  His descendant Henry Clinton became the second Duke of Newcastle in 1768.

However, this family’s fortunes took a nosedive during the Victorian era.  Henry Lord Clinton had to flee the country because of his gambling debts (only in the end to save himself by marriage to a wealthy heiress); while his brother Arthur Lord Clinton committed suicide after having become embroiled in a sensational court case where his love letters to a transvestite were read out.

Ireland.  A Clinton, William Clinton, had supported the Royalist cause during the English Civil War and lost his estates as a result.  He settled instead in Longford County, Ireland.  His son Charles decided not to stay. He set off for America in the summer of 1729 with a group of like-minded Protestants who formed the Clinton Company.

The largest numbers of Clintons in Ireland were to be found in County Louth where a Clinton family had arrived as part of John de Courcy’s Anglo-Norman invasion force in the 1180’s.  Their family fortunes took a downturn during Cromwellian times when Stephen Clinton of Clintonstown lost his lands.

There were also Scots McClintons in County Down (McClintocks whose name had contracted to McClinton).  Many of these Clintons and McClintons also emigrated.

America.  The early Clintons show a curious English/Irish disparity:

  • the English Clintons – George Clinton a governor of New York between 1743 and 1753 and his son Sir Henry who commanded the English troops for part of the Revolutionary War – returned to England.
  • but the Charles Clinton who had arrived from Ireland settled in upstate New York and his descendants became thoroughly Americanized.

Charles’s youngest son George Clinton was an American general during the Revolutionary War and emerged as a hero.  When the British evacuated New York in 1783, Washington and Clinton led the American forces back into the city side by side on horseback

His nephew DeWitt Clinton was largely responsible for the building of the Erie Canal (labelled at the time Clinton’s ditch).  But the canal proved a great commercial success and the Clinton name was celebrated not only in New York but also in the Midwest.

Clintons in the South.  Clinton, the seat of Sampson county in North Carolina, was named after Richard Clinton, a Revolutionary War officer and politician. Richard was the illegitimate son of John Sampson and his servant girl Rachel Clinton and he inherited the family wealth and position after Sampson’s death in 1762.  Both Sampson and Clinton were of Scots Irish origin.

What then of Bill Clinton’s ancestry?  Genealogists find a typical Southern mishmash of southern and border forebears.  Clinton’s mother side had Irish roots.

However, Clinton took the name not of his natural father but of his step-father, Roger Clinton.  The most influential person in his youth was probably his step-uncle, Raymond Clinton, a small-time Arkansas operator who had his political connections and ran a Buick franchise in Hot Springs.

Clinton Surname Miscellany

Clinton English Lineage.  The family of Clinton was said to be of Norman origin, settling in England after the Conquest.  They took their name from the lordship of Climpton in Oxfordshire.

Roger Climpton was Bishop of Coventry from 1228 to 1249.  John de Clinton was summoned to Parliament by Edward I.  His son William was Lord High Admiral of England.  Various Clintons fought in the Wars of the Roses. Edward was Lord High Admiral and created Earl of Lincoln in 1572.  His successor Henry was one of the commissioners at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Clinton Irish Lineage.  The Clinton name appeared on the records in the Dowdell deeds of county Louth from the thirteenth century.  Hugh de Clinton was sheriff there in 1301 and Sir John Clinton a leading member of the landed gentry in the 1500’s.

Later, however, three Clintons from this family appeared on the list of Jacobite outlawries.   Stephen Clinton of Clintonstown is recorded among those who had land confiscated.

Charles Clinton Arrives in America.  In 1729 Charles Clinton determined to emigrate to America.   Being a man of influence, he prevailed upon a large number of his neighbors and friends to go with him.  He sailed from Dublin on the George and Anne in May 1729.

They were unfortunate in the choice of vessel and captain, as the following family account reveals:

“They had laid in a sufficient stock of provisions for an ordinary voyage.  But instead of a common passage, the captain kept them at sea twenty one weeks and three days.  During the passage they came one morning in full sight of the coast of Virginia, which the boatswain affirmed he knew perfectly well as he had frequently been on that coast before.  But the captain called him a lying skulking dog and immediately ordered him to put the ship about and set off to sea.

In this shocking dilemma, the captain extorted from the passengers a very considerable sum of money, as a bribe for landing them on any part of the coast.  Soon after this agreement he landed them at Cape Cod.”

According to Clinton’s diary, 93 passengers died during the journey.

Charles Clinton himself remained in Massachusetts until the following spring when he moved onto New York. He settled there in a place he called Little Britain, now part of Orange County.

Though within a few miles of the Hudson river and some seventy miles from New York City, this place was at the frontier of civilization. “These hardy pioneers were so exposed to the incursions of the Indians that it was found necessary to construct a palisade around their house for security.”

George Clinton and His Money.  As a general in the Revolutionary War, George Clinton was an American hero and probably the best-known of the war generals after Washington.  He had long-term ambitions for the Presidency. But these were never fulfilled.

He was a shrewd man who was said to be very tight with his money.  He was a partner with George Washington in several profitable land deals, selling his Greenwich Village farm to John Jacob Astor for $75,000 in 1805.

Other stories suggest that at one stage, when he was allocated a certain amount of money to entertain visitors and dignitaries, he didn’t use it but kept it to himself.  Noted for his carefulness with money, he died one of New York’s wealthiest men.

Bill and Raymond Clinton.  The most influential male figure very early in his life, and indeed later in his political start, was his stepfather’s brother, a man named Raymond Clinton.  Raymond had a Buick franchise in Hot Springs in Arkansas and ran slot machines out at the back, not just at his own dealership but at other businesses and properties around town.

Raymond was always there to take care of Bill Clinton as a boy when he was mistreated or abandoned by his stepfather or mother.  He was very protective.  Perhaps he even adopted Bill in some aspects, seeing him, very early on, as the political figure, the charmer, the publicly acceptable face that he would eventually become.

At one point, Raymond played a very important role in Bill’s life.  This was the man to whom Bill Clinton turned when confronted with the prospect of being drafted to Vietnam.  It was Raymond who used his local connections to stave off the draft.

Reader Feedback – Re Bill Clinton.  Please note that although he legally wears the Clinton name, he was born William Jefferson Blythe III; adopted. Thus he and more importantly Hillary haven’t got a drop of Clinton blood running through their veins.

Lance Clinton (

Clinton Names

  • Edward Clinton, Earl of Lincoln, was Lord High Admiral of England in Elizabethan times.
  • George Clinton was an American hero of the revolutionary War and later became US Vice President. 
  • DeWitt Clinton was mainly responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. 
  • William Jefferson Clinton, born in Hope Arkansas, was the 42nd President of the United States.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton was Senator for New York, US Secretary of State, and subsequently ran unsuccessfully for the Presidency in 2016.

Clinton Numbers Today

  • 3,500 in the UK (most numerous in Durham)
  • 4,500 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Clinton and Like Surnames

The surnames found here cover most of the US Presidential surnames since the first President, George Washington.  Click on the surname below if you wish to know more of that particular President and his name.

ClintonJacksonNixonVan Buren

Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *