cleave

verb (1)
\ ˈklēv How to pronounce cleave (audio) \
cleaved\ ˈklēvd How to pronounce cleave (audio) \ or clove\ ˈklōv How to pronounce cleave (audio) \ also clave\ ˈklāv How to pronounce cleave (audio) \; cleaved; cleaving

Definition of cleave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly They kept themselves strictly separate, each cleaving to their own language, rituals, and food.Gourmet Notice was served on the Democratic party that it must cleave to the Jackson line if it wanted the labor vote.— Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The film's script has the same lack of pretension, cleaving to the teen movie formula with its high school cliques, clowns and bullies …— Sandra Hall

cleave

verb (2)
cleaved\ ˈklēvd How to pronounce cleave (audio) \ also cleft\ ˈkleft How to pronounce cleave (audio) \ or clove\ ˈklōv How to pronounce cleave (audio) \; cleaved also cleft or cloven\ ˈklō-​vən How to pronounce cleave (audio) \; cleaving

Definition of cleave (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to divide by or as if by a cutting blow : split The blow cleaved the victim's skull.
2 : to separate into distinct parts and especially into groups having divergent views The political party was cleaved by internal bickering.
3 : to subject to chemical cleavage a protein cleaved by an enzyme

intransitive verb

1 : to split especially along the grain The ax easily cleaved through the log.
2 : to penetrate or pass through something by or as if by cutting The ship's bow cleaved through the water.

Synonyms for cleave

Synonyms: Verb (1)

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Choose the Right Synonym for cleave

Verb (1)

stick, adhere, cohere, cling, cleave mean to become closely attached. stick implies attachment by affixing or by being glued together. couldn't get the label to stick adhere is often interchangeable with stick but sometimes implies a growing together. antibodies adhering to a virus cohere suggests a sticking together of parts so that they form a unified mass. eggs will make the mixture cohere cling implies attachment by hanging on with arms or tendrils. clinging to a capsized boat cleave stresses strength of attachment. the wet shirt cleaved to his back

Verb (2)

tear, rip, rend, split, cleave, rive mean to separate forcibly. tear implies pulling apart by force and leaving jagged edges. tear up the letter rip implies a pulling apart in one rapid uninterrupted motion often along a line or joint. ripped the shirt on a nail rend implies very violent or ruthless severing or sundering. an angry mob rent the prisoner's clothes split implies a cutting or breaking apart in a continuous, straight, and usually lengthwise direction or in the direction of grain or layers. split logs for firewood cleave implies very forceful splitting or cutting with a blow. a bolt of lightning cleaved the giant oak rive occurs most often in figurative use. a political party riven by conflict

Did you know?

Cleave has two homographs, each with a distinct origin. There is cleave meaning "to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly," as in "a family that cleaves to tradition"; that one is from Old English clifian, meaning "to adhere." And there is the cleave with meanings relating to splitting and dividing, which derives from Old English clēofan, meaning "to split." The two have slightly different inflections. The "split" cleave usually has cleaved as its past tense form, but cleft and clove are both in use as well; as its past participle form (the form that often occurs with have), cleaved is most common, but cleft and cloven are also used. The "adhere" cleave commonly has cleaved or clove (and occasionally clave) as its past tense and cleaved as its past participle.

First Known Use of cleave

Verb (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for cleave

Verb (1)

Middle English clevien, from Old English clifian; akin to Old High German kleben to stick

Verb (2)

Middle English cleven, from Old English clēofan; akin to Old Norse kljūfa to split, Latin glubere to peel, Greek glyphein to carve

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The first known use of cleave was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near cleave

cleavage nucleus

cleave

cleavelandite

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Cite this Entry

“Cleave.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cleave. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for cleave

cleave

verb
\ ˈklēv How to pronounce cleave (audio) \
cleaved or clove\ ˈklōv \; cleaving

Kids Definition of cleave

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to cling to a person or thing closely The child cleaved to his mother.

cleave

verb
cleaved also cleft\ ˈkleft \ or clove\ ˈklōv \; cleaved also cleft or cloven\ ˈklō-​vən \; cleaving

Kids Definition of cleave (Entry 2 of 2)

: to divide by or as if by a cutting blow : split The ax cleaved the log in two.

cleave

transitive verb
\ ˈklēv How to pronounce cleave (audio) \
cleaved; cleaving

Medical Definition of cleave

: to subject to chemical cleavage a protein cleaved by an enzyme

More from Merriam-Webster on cleave

Nglish: Translation of cleave for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cleave for Arabic Speakers

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