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

McKinsey’s exile from Mongolia was a grave enough matter that the firm’s leaders attempted high-level diplomacy at the ultimate conclave of the elite: the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Ian Macdougall, Propublica, ProPublica, "The Country That Exiled McKinsey," 14 May 2019 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, the runner-up in the 2005 conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, was known as a tribune of the poor of Latin America. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "‘It Will Cause a Scandal.’ The Pope and a Trusted U.S. Cardinal Clash Over Sex-Abuse Crisis," 14 Feb. 2019 When Pope Benedict retired in 2013, Cardinal O’Malley was one of the first Americans to support Cardinal Bergoglio at that year’s conclave, according to Pope Francis’ biographer Austen Ivereigh. Francis X. Rocca, WSJ, "‘It Will Cause a Scandal.’ The Pope and a Trusted U.S. Cardinal Clash Over Sex-Abuse Crisis," 14 Feb. 2019 The clandestine conclave took place as the group had already lost most of its territory and the battle for Mosul was nearing its climax. Isabel Coles And, WSJ, "Prisoner Recounts Secret Meeting With ISIS Leader Baghdadi," 17 Aug. 2018 The policy conclave, usually held in the spring, was convened to mark the 40th anniversary of the Communist government’s adoption of pro-market policies. Lingling Wei, WSJ, "China Weighs Skipping Trade Talks After U.S. Tariff Threat," 16 Sep. 2018 Bergoglio was my guess to emerge from the conclave as pope. Jason Horowitz, Vogue, "How Pope Francis Is Changing the Catholic Church," 16 July 2018 Cardinals younger than 80 are eligible to vote for the next pope in a conclave, when a current pope either resigns or dies. Frances D'emilio, Fox News, "Pope, making new cardinals, hears Iraqi tell of martyrs," 28 June 2018 Republicans held a long conclave Thursday night in anticipation of a Friday vote. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Proposed DACA pathway complicates border wall funding," 25 June 2018

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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Statistics for conclave

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for conclave

The first known use of conclave was in 1524

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English Language Learners Definition of conclave

formal : a private or secret meeting or group

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More from Merriam-Webster on conclave

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with conclave

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for conclave

Spanish Central: Translation of conclave

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

Comments on conclave

What made you want to look up conclave? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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