Definition of clave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

past tense of cleave


\ ˈklä-(ˌ)vā How to pronounce clave (audio) , ˈklāv How to pronounce clave (audio) \

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 Cimafunk’s sound is thoroughly Caribbean, with strong clave timeline and hand-clap patterns chopping up the music, which also has elements of futuristic soul and hip-hop. John Adamian,, "Funk pop’s Cimafunk returning to Real Art Ways for free concert," 14 Aug. 2019 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

Time Traveler

The first known use of clave was in 1928

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Cite this Entry

“Clave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Aug. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on clave

Spanish Central: Translation of clave

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