con·​clave | \ ˈkän-ˌklāv How to pronounce conclave (audio) \

Definition of conclave

1 : a private meeting or secret assembly especially : a meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals secluded continuously while choosing a pope The conclave elected the new pope on the fifth ballot.
2 : a gathering of a group or association the annual conclave of newspaper publishers

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Did You Know?

Ever wonder what happens behind locked doors? The etymology of conclave begs this question as the word comes from a Latin term meaning "room that can be locked up." The English word formerly had the same meaning, but that use is now obsolete. Today, "conclave" refers not to the locked rooms but to the private meetings and secret assemblies that occur within them. "Conclave" is especially likely to refer to a meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals who have secluded themselves to choose a pope, but it can refer to other types of private or secret meetings as well. The meaning of "conclave" has also expanded to include gatherings that are not necessarily secret or private but simply involve people with shared interests.

Examples of conclave in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In a tribal conclave held during the visiting journalists’ stay, leaders expressed approval, even happiness, with his tenure. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, "Yemen is collapsing. That may be its salvation," 15 Dec. 2020 Cardinals often advise popes and pick the next pontiff by conferring among themselves and then meeting in secret conclave to select one of their own to lead the Roman Catholic Church and its roughly 1.3 billion rank-and-file faithful. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Pope Francis, with new cardinals, warns Catholic Church against mediocrity," 30 Nov. 2020 Nine of the 13 are under 80 and eligible under Church law to enter a secret conclave to choose the next pope from among themselves after Francis dies or resigns. NBC News, "Pope installs new cardinals, including first African-American," 28 Nov. 2020 On Saturday and Sunday, the G-20′s annual conclave is expected to finalize a framework for granting poor nations debt relief and little else. Washington Post, "Trump could be a no-show at virtual G-20 as coronavirus ravages the globe," 20 Nov. 2020 The two first met in March 2013, when both were in Rome to report on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the conclave that elected Pope Francis. New York Times, "She Married the Priest," 17 Oct. 2020 Nine of the 13 men named as new cardinals on Sunday, including Archbishop Gregory, are under age 80 and therefore eligible to participate in the next conclave to elect Francis’ successor. Jason Horowitz, New York Times, "Pope Francis Appoints First African-American Cardinal," 25 Oct. 2020 New cardinals under the age of 80 will join fellow cardinals eligible to elect the next pontiff in a secret conclave. NBC News, "Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Wilton Gregory as first Black American cardinal," 25 Oct. 2020 New cardinals under the age of 80 will join fellow cardinals eligible to elect the next pontiff in a secret conclave., "Pope Francis names 13 new cardinals, including Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the first US Black prelate chosen for the honor," 25 Oct. 2020

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

1524, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for conclave

Middle English, from Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French, from Medieval Latin, from Latin, room that can be locked up, from com- + clavis key — more at clavicle

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Time Traveler for conclave

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The first known use of conclave was in 1524

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Last Updated

28 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Conclave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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How to pronounce conclave (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of conclave

formal : a private or secret meeting or group

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