What’s the difference between clench and clinch? Their meanings are identical, but usage varies.
To clench or to clinch is to hold tight. However, clench has limited senses of grabbing something or tightening a part of one’s body, such as a fist or a jaw.
Clinch, though it is a variant of clench, is much more diverse in usage, with literal and figurative meanings. It refers to bending or flattening nails, screws, and other fasteners, to closing or settling a deal or an argument, or to guaranteeing a victory. It can also be a noun, referring to the action of holding or hugging, and a clincher is someone or something that secures or settles.
The predecessor of clench and clinch is cling, which also has a sense of holding tight, as when someone clings to someone else or to something (whether an object or an idea), but it also refers to things that hold together or adhere, such as material (like fabric or plastic) that wraps closely around a person or an object.
Clutch, more distantly related to the other words, has the same basic meaning as clench and clinch but has an additional connotation of sudden movement. In addition, unlike its synonyms, it may suggest an aborted or unsuccessful attempt to grab something or someone.
Clutch is also used as a noun to describe a hold or an attempted hold, and it may refer to a mechanical part that holds other components in place during a shifting of gears, or to a pedal that activates such a part. It also has a figurative meaning of “a difficult situation,” or one may figuratively be caught in someone’s clutches or in a clutch caused by circumstances.