1

cleave

verb \ ˈklēv \
Updated on: 18 Nov 2017

Definition of cleave

cleaved play \ˈklēvd\ or clove play \ˈklōv\ also clave play \ˈklāv\; cleaved; cleaving
intransitive verb
: to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly
  • children cleaving to their families

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Recent Examples of cleave from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of cleave

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

Synonym Discussion of cleave

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

2

cleave

verb

Definition of cleave

cleaved play \ˈklēvd\ also cleft play \ˈkleft\ or clove play \ˈklōv\; cleaved also cleft or cloven play \ˈklō-vən\; cleaving
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 the log.
2 : to penetrate or pass through something by or as if by cutting
  • The ship's bow cleaved through the water.

Origin and Etymology of cleave

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

Synonym Discussion of cleave

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


CLEAVE Defined for Kids

1

cleave

verb \ ˈklēv \

Definition of cleave for Students

cleaved or clove \ˈklōv\; cleaving
: to cling to a person or thing closely
  • The child cleaved to his mother.

2

cleave

verb

Definition of cleave for Students

cleaved also cleft \ˈkleft\ or clove \ˈklōv\; cleaved also cleft or cloven \ˈklō-vən\; cleaving
: to divide by or as if by a cutting blow : split
  • The ax cleaved the log in two.

Headscratcher for cleave

The two verbs cleave look and sound alike, but have very different meanings. One means “to split apart,” and the other means “to cling to.”


Medical Dictionary

cleave

transitive verb \ ˈklēv \

medical Definition of cleave

cleaved; cleaving
: to subject to chemical cleavage
  • a protein cleaved by an enzyme


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