clois·​ter | \ ˈklȯi-stər How to pronounce cloister (audio) \

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\ ˈklȯi-​st(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce cloistering (audio) \

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

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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

Noun monks living in a cloister in the country
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Photograph by Stefan Ruiz for TIME The office is smaller than the others lining the south wall of the West Wing, where some of the President’s top aides cloister. Brian Bennett, Time, "Inside Jared Kushner’s Unusual White House Role," 16 Jan. 2020 Hikers set former mountain strongholds, such as Château de Puilaurens in France, as their lofty goal while pilgrims request a night’s stay inside cloisters of Greece’s Mount Athos to learn from monks the art of disconnection. National Geographic, "Discover 22 of Europe’s most sacred sites," 10 May 2019 The artists chose settings as unalike as a contemplative cloister garden and a heavily-trafficked gateway. Lori Waxman,, "‘Chicago Sound’ pairs University of Chicago campus with artistic sound for a feast for the ears," 25 Oct. 2019 Find secret spots in the splendid gardens at Giverny and Versailles, study the strategy behind World War II operations, and solve ancient mysteries in the halls of historic castles and cloisters. National Geographic, "France Family Journey: From Paris to Normandy and Beyond," 17 June 2019 The castle-like Met Cloisters on the Hudson River is the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to Medieval religious art and architecture, created out of bits of four actual cloisters. Elizabeth Chang, Twin Cities, "Harlem’s 125th Street is the gateway to new corners of Manhattan," 3 Aug. 2019 Among the most renowned of the cloister’s early tenants was the young cleric Abérlard, founder of a school to which the present-day University of Paris traces its origins. Bruce Dale, National Geographic, "Adored, neglected, and restored: A 1968 Nat Geo feature explored Notre Dame," 17 Apr. 2019 The old cloister, as the walled domain of the Chapter of Canons was called, housed unusual and not invariably pious persons, as well as the worldly ecclesiastics themselves. Bruce Dale, National Geographic, "Adored, neglected, and restored: A 1968 Nat Geo feature explored Notre Dame," 17 Apr. 2019 Meander through the cloister of the monastery or discover the island’s history at a museum. National Geographic, "France Family Journey: From Paris to Normandy and Beyond," 17 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Protestant Reformation in 16th century England and northern Europe ended the extremely convenient practice of cloistering unmarriageable girls in convents. Kristen Richardson, Time, "It’s Easy to Dismiss Debutante Balls, But Their History Can Help Us Understand Women’s Lives," 25 Nov. 2019 Mary Todd Lincoln, his widow, was cloistered in the White House, wailing in grief, unable to reach her closest confidante: her dressmaker. Nancy Wartik, New York Times, "Overlooked No More: Elizabeth Keckly, Dressmaker and Confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln," 12 Dec. 2018 The other is Ruiter’s response to the rolling living room that the modern automobile has become, cloistering drivers from the rest of the world. Adam Tschorn,, "The Petersen’s ‘Disruptors’ exhibition rethinks the car — from the wheels up," 11 July 2019 Local Circuit Court judges cloistered inside a jury assembly room on the 17th floor of the Richard J. Daley Center on Thursday and voted 143-102 for Evans over Judge Lorna Propes. Juan Perez Jr.,, "Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans retains leadership post and power over $272 million budget, thousands of employees and future of local court system," 12 Sep. 2019 Over the course of four hours, you will be cloistered away in your own private culinary bubble in which your focus can be firmly fixed on the food and wine before you. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Get ready for a long night — and to have your mind blown — at Arama," 15 Aug. 2019 Spend a few days hiking the Lousios Gorge and you’re less likely to encounter tourists than monks cloistered in the area’s working monasteries, some of which date to the Middle Ages. Thomas Linkel, National Geographic, "How to get away from it all in Greece," 18 July 2019 He was cloistered onto this compound in Pyongyang, or other royal residences around the country. CBS News, "Transcript: Anna Fifield talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"," 19 June 2019 Among the brilliant theorists cloistered in the quiet woodside campus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, Edward Witten stands out as a kind of high priest. Quanta Magazine, "A Physicist’s Physicist Ponders the Nature of Reality," 28 Nov. 2017

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

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for cloister

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

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cloister.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for cloister


How to pronounce cloister (audio)

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 How to pronounce cloister (audio) \

Kids Definition of cloister

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on cloister

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cloister

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cloister

Spanish Central: Translation of cloister

Nglish: Translation of cloister for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about cloister

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out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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