con·​clave ˈkän-ˌklāv How to pronounce conclave (audio)
: 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.
: a gathering of a group or association
the annual conclave of newspaper publishers

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Conclave comes from a Latin word meaning "room that can be locked up" (from the Latin com-, "together," and clavis, "key"). The English conclave 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. 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 The statistics can be used to demonstrate to government officials why investing in the arts is a good idea, Cohen said, and the conclave offered sessions on how to effectively share the message of the arts’ economic impact. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 10 Jan. 2024 He was made cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II and participated in the conclaves that elected both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Timothy H.j. Nerozzi Fox News, Fox News, 23 Dec. 2023 Becciu retained his title but was stripped of his rights as a cardinal, including the right to participate in a papal conclave, after being incriminated in this case. Phoebe Natanson, ABC News, 16 Dec. 2023 The annual grand conclave of international diplomacy kicks into high gear Tuesday, when the General Debate of world leaders speaking at the famous dais of the U.N. General Assembly gets underway. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 19 Sep. 2023 The four leaders who have been in the contract conclave with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have been Disney’s Bob Iger, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and Warner Bros. Cynthia Littleton, Variety, 21 Oct. 2023 In late October, Chinese leader Xi Jinping kicked off the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Party Congress—a twice-a-decade, agenda-setting conclave of the party’s key leaders—with a report that touted China’s achievements and laid out a vision for the years ahead. Bonny Lin, Foreign Affairs, 10 Nov. 2022 Last week, ProPublica revealed that the ethically heedless Clarence Thomas had been a secret speaker at donor conclaves of the Koch network, which spent over $60 million supporting GOP candidates in the last election cycle. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 25 Sep. 2023 In July, Kappa Alpha Psi, another Black Greek-letter fraternity, held its national conclave in Tampa because it had already been planned and paid for. Curtis Bunn, NBC News, 2 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'conclave.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1524, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of conclave was in 1524


Dictionary Entries Near conclave

Cite this Entry

“Conclave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


con·​clave ˈkän-ˌklāv How to pronounce conclave (audio)
: a private or secret meeting or assembly
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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