Clinton Surname Meaning, History & Origin

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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.
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Clinton Ancestry

England.  The Clintons of
were a substantial family, playing their role in
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,
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

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
    Ireland settled in upstate New York and his descendants became
    thoroughly Americanized.

Charles’s youngest son, 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
.  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.


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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
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 dliemma, 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

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.


Select 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.

Select 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)


Select 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




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