Scottish clans are registered with the Court of Lord Lyon. Where the court of Lord Lyon also recognises the chief of a clan, then the clan is a Scottish Clan. If the clan has no recognised chief it is known as an Armigerous clan. Clans, or families, which follow the chief of another clan (often closely related through family ties), then the clan is known as a Sept.
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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
An armigerous clan is a Scottish clan, family or name which is registered with the Court of the Lord Lyon and once had a chief who bore undifferenced arms, but does not have a chief currently recognized as such by Lyon Court. Before 1745 all chiefs had arms; however, not all of these are recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, which was only established in 1672.
In Scottish heraldry undifferenced arms are only held by chiefs or heads of clans, families, or names. A clan is considered a "noble incorporation" because a clan chief is a title of honour in Scotland and the chief confers his or her noble status onto the clan. Because armigerous clans do not have such chiefs, they are not recognised as noble communities and have no legal standing under Scots law.