Definition of clave 

(Entry 1 of 2)

past tense of cleave


\ˈklä-(ˌ)vā, ˈklāv \

Definition of clave (Entry 2 of 2)

: one of a pair of cylindrical hardwood sticks that are used as a percussion instrument

Examples of clave in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The beat has a hint of Caribbean clave, while the chords move from minor to major, embracing temporary satisfaction. New York Times, "The Playlist: Frank Ocean Rescues ‘Moon River,’ and 10 More New Songs," 16 Feb. 2018 Just then, the DJ introduces a tango record, and the clave finally catches its breath. Adam Hurly, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Weekend in Cali, Colombia's Salsa Capital," 3 Jan. 2018 Performing live in the Spotify studios, the bassist Jahmal Nichols keeps this quintet steadily bobbing with a simple clave pattern. New York Times, "The Playlist: Frank Ocean Rescues ‘Moon River,’ and 10 More New Songs," 16 Feb. 2018 The entrancing expedition of an album opens with a track highlighted by a hypnotizing clave from Klik & Frik, the cumbia-tripping duo Frikstailers’ side project. Judy Cantor-navas, Billboard, "Waxploitation Releases Future Sounds of Argentina: Listen," 23 June 2017 The musician and educator Jadele McPherson led a crowd of about 50 through a basic lesson in Afro-Cuban clave rhythms. Giovanni Russonello, New York Times, "Bringing Tito Puente’s Fire to a New Generation," 25 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clave.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of clave


1928, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for clave


American Spanish, from Spanish, keystone, clef, from Latin clavis

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Time Traveler for clave

The first known use of clave was in 1928

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Spanish Central: Translation of clave

Comments on clave

What made you want to look up clave? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


by force of circumstances

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