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 cloister (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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Did You Know?


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 But some cloister themselves in the bone marrow, eking out small quantities of antibodies. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, "The Virus Is Evolving. But So Are Your Antibodies," 12 Feb. 2021 The two monks of the title (Carlos Villatoro as Javier and Víctor Urruchúa as Juan) were best friends before their love for Anita (Magda Haller) drove them, separately, to the cloister. David Mermelstein, WSJ, "Fierce Filmmaking Beyond Our Borders," 30 Sep. 2020 Indeed, the cloister of Fetch the Bolt Cutters is somehow packed with visions of humans other than Apple. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Fiona Apple’s Survival Guide to Isolation," 17 Apr. 2020 The classroom is the innermost sanctum of that cloister, where worldly demands can be blocked out long enough for a group of people—some of whom had no prior interest—to share a poem by Horace, or an argument by Aristotle. Agnes Callard, The New Yorker, "What Do the Humanities Do In a Crisis?," 11 Apr. 2020 My online cloister is nowhere close to the nightmare facing the people under medical orders to quarantine or isolate in hotels, nursing homes and cruise ships. Washington Post, "I’ve been working from home for eight days. The Netflix-and-quarantine life is not that chill.," 11 Mar. 2020 My online cloister is nowhere close to the nightmare facing the people under medical orders to quarantine or isolate in hotels, nursing homes and cruise ships. Anchorage Daily News, "I’ve been working from home for 8 days. The Netflix-and-quarantine life is not that chill.," 11 Mar. 2020 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb A year of extremes, 2020 has driven some people to claim the streets and others to cloister at home. Washington Post, "In the galleries: Unique and unexpected perspectives on this moment in time," 2 Oct. 2020 In addition to being cloistered inside with their abuser, job and financial losses can inflame stress. Casey Tolan, CNN, "Some cities see jumps in domestic violence during the pandemic," 4 Apr. 2020 Fears of Covid-19 then kept them both cloistered in the mother’s studio apartment. Dan Chiasson, The New York Review of Books, "Pandemic Journal," 15 May 2020 Want to take a walk but cloistered inside because of the pandemic? Judith H. Dobrzynski, WSJ, "The Staying Inside Guide: The Pleasures of Spring Without the Pollen," 2 May 2020 As people cloister in their homes and practice social distancing, 72% of domestic workers report being out of work, according to the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Ryan Prior, CNN, "This former maid turned bestselling author explains why you should keep paying your help now," 21 Apr. 2020 With folks cloistered at home, there could be some money in delivering for other platforms such as Grubhub or DoorDash. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, "Coronavirus unemployment guide: What to do if you get laid off or furloughed," 3 Apr. 2020 The new executive order aims to put more staff in residential care and outpatient facilities, and to add programs that would serve seniors cloistering themselves at home. Rachel Swan,, "Gov. Gavin Newsom beefs up services for seniors, a day after telling them to stay home," 16 Mar. 2020 Ken Inocencio was quietly cloistered at home with his three teenage children, trying to stave off the deadly coronavirus, when a fire engulfed their apartment in Alameda. Rachel Swan,, "First came the coronavirus stay-home order. Then a fire destroyed this Alameda family’s home," 11 Apr. 2020

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 entry 1

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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

21 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cloister.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

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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 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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