Why Is It Called A Grandfather Clock?

For those of us who have had a grandfather clock in our home, or who have seen one in someone else’s home, we’ve often wondered why it’s called a grandfather clock. After all, the clock itself has no grandparents or any other relatives in it. So what’s behind the name Grandfather Clock?

Let’s take a closer look at why this clock has earned such an intriguing name.

Why Is It Called a Grandfather Clock?

Grandfather clocks, also known as Longcase clocks or tall-case clocks, have been a popular home accessory since the 18th century. Despite the popularity of these clocks, many are unsure as to why they are referred to as “grandfather” clocks.

The answer to this question is rooted in a popular 19th-century song.

History of Grandfather Clocks

The first known tall-case clocks were built in 1680 in Britain.

In general, the tall-case clock was the most impressive and expensive type of clock made during the 18th century. Its physical stature made it a sign of wealth and influence.

The earliest grandfather clocks were made from heavy and ornate wood, though some were constructed with more modern, lightweight materials in later years. In most cases, the mainspring-powered clock ran on a minimum of three weights and had a face with hands (which included Roman numerals).

The Origins of the Name “Grandfather Clock”

The term “grandfather clock” came into use in the 1880s, but why is it called a grandfather clock?

As it turns out, the term “grandfather clock” originated from a song of the same name. Written in 1875 by the English composer Henry Clay Work, the song “My Grandfather’s Clock” was inspired by a real-life clock owned by his grandfather (who passed away in 1874).

The lyrics from the popular song tell a story of how the grandfather’s clock was a constant reminder of his life. It had a careless pendulum, which always stays in one place and swings in time with the grandfather’s moods. The clock was made in 1780 and had an impressive two-meter tower.

These lyrics were so well-received that it inspired the phrase “grandfather clock” to describe all tall-case clocks.


Grandfather clocks are a highly desired and popular item even today. These pieces of history continue to be appreciated by people around the world. The next time you come across one of these clocks, keep in mind that the name was inspired by a popular 19th-century song “My Grandfather’s Clock”. Citations:https://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Longcase_clockhttps://www. poemaccordion. org/2016/grandfathers-clock/https://www. antiquesnavigator. com/pages/antiques-collectables/antique-clocks/grandfather-clocks. html

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