Scottish clans (from Gaelic clann, "progeny"), give a sense of identity and shared descent to people in Scotland and to their relations throughout the world, with a formal structure of Clan Chiefs recognised by the court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms which acts as an authority concerning matters of heraldry and Coat of Arms. Most clans have their own tartan patterns, usually dating from the 19th century, and members of the clan may wear kilts, plaids, sashes, ties, scarves, or other items of clothing made of the appropriate tartan as a badge of membership and as a uniform where appropriate.
The modern image of clans, each with their "own" tartan and specific land, was promulgated by the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and others. Historically, tartan designs were associated with Lowland and Highland districts whose weavers tended to produce cloth patterns favoured in those districts. By process of social evolution, it followed that the clans/families prominent in a particular district would wear the tartan of that district, and it was but a short step for that community to become identified by it.
Clans generally identify with geographical areas originally controlled by the Chiefs, sometimes with an ancestral castle and clan gatherings form a regular part of the social scene. The most notable gathering of recent times was "The Gathering 2009" which included a "clan convention" in the Scottish parliament.
It is a common misconception that every person who bears a clan's name is a lineal descendant of the chiefs. Many clansmen although not related to the chief took the chief's surname as their own to show solidarity, or for basic protection, or for much needed sustenance
The Scottish Gaelic word clann means children. In early times, and possibly even today, clan members believed themselves to descend from a common ancestor, the founder of the Scottish clan. From its perceived founder a clan takes its name. The clan chief is the representative of this founder, and represents the clan as well. In the Scottish clan system, the term chief denotes a greater chief than that of a chieftain. In consequence, branch chiefs (heads of branches of a clan) are designated chieftains. Scottish clans who no longer have a clan chief are referred to as armigerous clans.