clois·​ter | \ˈklȯi-stər \

Definition of cloister 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a monastic establishment

b : an area within a monastery or convent to which the religious are normally restricted

c : monastic life young men and women choosing the cloister as a way of life

d : a place or state of seclusion … the Internet broke out of its academic cloister and started cavorting in the mainstream.— Paul McFedries

2 : a covered passage on the side of a court usually having one side walled and the other an open arcade or colonnade The courtyard is surrounded with a cloister.


cloistered; cloistering\ -​st(ə-​)riŋ \

Definition of cloister (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to seclude from the world in or as if in a cloister a scientist who cloisters herself in a laboratory policy makers are cloistered for the weekend, trying to stave off a default that they fear could trigger an international financial panic— Art Pine

2 : to surround with a cloister cloistered gardens

Illustration of cloister

Illustration of cloister


cloister 2

In the meaning defined above

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Synonyms for cloister

Synonyms: Noun

abbey, friary, hermitage, monastery, priory

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Cloister first entered the English language as a noun in the 13th century; it referred then (as it still does) to a convent or monastery. More than three centuries later, English speakers began using the verb "cloister" to mean "to seclude in or as if in a cloister." Today the noun can also refer to the monastic life or to a covered and usually arched passage along or around a court. You may also encounter "cloistered" with the meaning "surrounded with a covered passage," as in "cloistered gardens." "Cloister" ultimately derives from the Latin verb claudere, meaning "to close." Other words that can be traced back to the prolific "claudere" include "close," "conclude," "exclude," "include," "preclude," "seclude," and "recluse."

Examples of cloister in a Sentence


monks living in a cloister in the country

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In Quebec City, the 17th-century monastery Le Monastère des Augustines provides rooms in the original cloister, breakfast served in silence, workshops in painting and opportunities to hear the nuns singing vespers. Elaine Glusac, New York Times, "Your Next Trip Might Change Your Life," 1 June 2018 While the Abbey had a smaller museum in the 11th-century undercroft off the cloisters until 2015, the new gallery offers space for four times as many objects for a total of 300. Dana Rose Falcone,, "Crowns! Scepters! Orbs! See the Amazing Royal Treasures Newly on Display at Westminster Abbey," 30 May 2018 If drinking loosened me from the cloister of my body, then running involved inhabiting that body fully: sweat pooling in my collarbone, flattening my hair to my skull, coating my shins in layers of dust and grime. Leslie Jamison, Vogue, "For Leslie Jamison, Running and Drinking Were The Two Quickest Ways to Escape," 2 Apr. 2018 Beyond such witticisms, the European cloister setting heightens the sensation of reverence. Rhonda Garelick, The Cut, "The Met’s ‘Heavenly Bodies’ Show Is Worth the Pilgrimage," 10 May 2018 The property, with its Moorish cloisters and 18th-century mansion, was elaborately renovated by the Scottish industrialist Francis Neville Reid in the early 20th century. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Beyond Sea Views, What to Explore While Visiting the Amalfi Coast," 27 Apr. 2018 Start at the Graça Convent, whose tiled chapel and Baroque cloister opened to the public for the first time after recent restorations (free). New York Times, "36 Hours in Lisbon," 19 Apr. 2018 Despite all its museums, stately architecture and polished thoroughfares — or perhaps because of them — the Upper East Side’s reputation is as a stuffy, cushioned cloister of the wealthy and unadventurous. Robert Simonson, New York Times, "My Upper East Side Story: Pizza, Schnitzel, a Piano Bar," 12 Apr. 2018 In the history of Christianity, cloisters have frequently been regarded as a barrier, a series of wide arcades and covered walkways separating the sphere of worship from the affairs of everyday life. John Kaag, WSJ, "‘The Cloister’ Review: Enclosed Encounters," 2 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Popular treatment methods include prayer, masturbatory reconditioning, cloistering individuals from society, and fostering nonsexual male bonding. Chelsea Greenwood Lassman, Teen Vogue, "How Gay Conversion Therapy Came to Be, and How It Persists Today," 7 Aug. 2018 Players are notoriously cloistered during the World Cup and are especially loath to speak about their fitness secrets, so the contents of their bottles are not known. New York Times, "That Spitting Thing at the World Cup? It’s Probably ‘Carb Rinsing’," 11 July 2018 Storr takes part in encounter groups in California, grills a Benedictine monk cloistered at Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland, and gets academic psychologists to chat frankly about their work. Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times, "How We Got to Be So Self-Absorbed: The Long Story," 21 June 2018 The three men, along with medical personnel, including a psychiatrist, were cloistered in the middle of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's plane in a small section of 12 seats that was cordoned off by curtains on both ends., "Latest News on North Korea Detainees," 20 May 2018 Teens nowadays have a reputation for being cloistered in virtual sanctuaries, preferring video games and screen time to the mischief of a furtive cigarette or sneaked beer. Matthew Ormseth,, "(Less) Risky Business: Survey Says Fewer Connecticut Teens Drinking, Using Drugs, Having Sex," 13 June 2018 Many of these women were abused, cloistered, and prevented from leaving their hometowns. Jackson Holahan, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Good Mothers' profiles the female prosecutor who took on Italy's mafia," 6 June 2018 The eight give up part of their lunch period daily to cloister themselves in tiny practice rooms with scuffed off-white tiles and years of student scribbling on the walls., "A rare instrument strikes a chord with Philly students," 31 Mar. 2018 The trio, along with medical personnel, including a psychiatrist, were cloistered in the middle of Pompeo’s plane in a small section of 12 business class-sized seats that was cordoned off by curtains on both ends. Matthew Lee, Time, "President Trump Welcomes U.S. Detainees Freed from North Korea," 10 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cloister.' 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 cloister


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1581, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cloister


Middle English cloistre, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin claustrum, from Latin, bar, bolt, from claudere to close — more at close


see cloister entry 1

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The first known use of cloister was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for cloister



English Language Learners Definition of cloister

: a place where monks or nuns live : a monastery or convent

: a covered path or hall with arches that is on the side of a building (such as a monastery or church) and that has one open side usually facing a courtyard


clois·​ter | \ˈklȯi-stər \

Kids Definition of cloister

2 : a covered passage with arches along or around the walls of a courtyard

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