When it comes to words I thought I knew but didn’t, clinch / clench heads the list. When do you use clench and when do you use clinch? Or is it the same word with varied spelling, like dialog and dialogue?
I consulted an old dictionary. Sure enough, under clench it said [See CLINCH]. Does that mean they originally meant the same thing? The definitions are similar but neither word is listed as a synonym for the other. So I did additional research and, as with so many words in our language, usage has modified the definitions.
Clench means to hold or grasp firmly. She clenched the steering wheel until her knuckles whitened.
Clinch means to confirm. His offer clinched the deal. Except…yes, you knew there’d be exceptions. Clinch in boxing means to hold firmly with one or both arms around the body.
Don’t expect any help from SpellCheck. It accepts either spelling. Grammar helpers accept either usage.
The only advice I give you with absolute certainty concerning clinch and clench is BE CONSISTENT within your work.