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

abbey, friary, hermitage, monastery, priory

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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


monks living in a cloister in the country

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The building overlooks the Hudson River and actually incorporates five medieval cloisters into a modern museum structure, creating a historic, contextualized backdrop in which to view the art. John Wogan, Condé Nast Traveler, "25 Best Museums in New York City," 27 Feb. 2018 Where to Have LunchOsteria del Teatro, near the cloisters of San Francesco, for pesto ravioli. Erin Florio, Condé Nast Traveler, "6 Places You Absolutely Have to Stop on a Florence-to-Rome Road Trip," 12 Feb. 2018 This, perhaps, is how many in the West see the burqa, and also the hijab (a covering for the head and chest) and the niqab (a face veil)—cloth cloisters of Islam, the second-largest religion in the world. Laura Jacobs, WSJ, "‘Contemporary Muslim Fashions’ Review: Eye-Catching Modesty," 19 Sep. 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Yet this valley has remained largely hidden, cloistered inside the foreboding, snowcapped Rhaetian Alps, unknown even to many native Italians. Christopher Ross, WSJ, "The Hidden Valley in the Italian Alps Where Winemakers Are Working Against Nature," 15 Feb. 2019 Discreetly cloistered in a 19th-century hôtel particulier on Paris’s Champs-Élysées, the Biologique Recherche store displays its creams under bell jars like rare specimens in a laboratory. Marcia Desanctis, Vogue, "Can the Genes Responsible for Aging Be Altered by a Face Cream? These Skin-Care Companies Say Yes," 21 July 2018 Surrounded by beautiful stone walls, the tomato plants sit cloistered in four quadrants framed by low hedges, roses, and apple trees. Elizabeth Wellington, Vogue, "How a French Prince Is Saving the World From Tasteless Tomatoes," 17 Sep. 2018 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

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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Last Updated

11 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for cloister

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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cloister

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cloister

Spanish Central: Translation of cloister

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

Comments on cloister

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to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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