The term Clan, in the sense of a Scottish Clan, carries enormous historical and cultural background. Simple definitions, such as those in online “Wikipedia-style” Articles are both simplistic in nature and culturally biased against the original Gaels to whom the Scottish Clan system originated. In addition, Modern definitions defined by the Lyon Court are helpful, yet somewhat ignore the historical background behind.
The term Clan is derived from the term Clanna (Clown-na) which means children. This oft repeated line intimates a biological link. However, in Gaelic literature, the Terms Cinneadh or Fine are more often used which have come to mean tribe as opposed to a family. Clearly, there is a kinship relationship that was implied in the past (Kin being a cognate albeit not the origin of the term Cinn).
In reality, Clans represented all those who held allegiance to, or lived in, the jurisdiction of chief. Over time, Clan boundaries changes although on modern maps they are shown by historical chartered documents to specific families. Residents tended to adopt the surname of the Chief to deal with living in an English speaking world.
In the Modern Era, Clans have come to identify a group of people with specific surnames or individuals who have a connection to a clan chief. (To read a great article about what is a Clan, click here. Clan membership is therefore granted by being a part of the name, and sometimes being accepted as part of Society, in modern terms.