What It Is:
: a covered passage on the side of a court usually having one side walled and the other an open arcade or colonnade
About the Word:
Cloister comes from the Latin claudere, "to close," and in its earliest use the word referred simply to an enclosed space. (Chaucer used it to refer to a very specific enclosed space – the womb.) Cloister later referred to an area within a monastery or convent to which cloistered religious are normally restricted. The cloister defined above is a regular feature of monasteries and cathedrals, and is found on some college campuses too.