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 Senior Chinese officials are set to meet in Beijing later this week for an annual legislative conclave. Jonathan Cheng, WSJ, "China Banking Regulator Sees Risk From ‘Bubble’ in Real-Estate Prices," 2 Mar. 2021 Kevin McCarthy was almost to the end of the press conference when a reporter asked whether Donald Trump should speak at an upcoming conservative conclave in Florida. Lissandra Villa, Time, "Kevin McCarthy’s Gamble on a “Big Tent” GOP," 23 Apr. 2021 An officer at the camp told Sabit that the arrests were intended to maintain stability before the Two Sessions, a major political conclave in Beijing. Raffi Khatchadourian, The New Yorker, "Surviving the Crackdown in Xinjiang," 5 Apr. 2021 The conclave is set to offer more clarity on Beijing’s goals for 2035, which include recalibrating China’s economic model to ensure fairer growth and environmental sustainability. Chun Han Wong, WSJ, "China Plays Up Ascendancy Over West as It Sets Economic Path," 4 Mar. 2021 In a process as secretive as a papal conclave, involving only slightly less mystique, McKinsey’s senior partners refused Kevin Sneader a second term as CEO. Robert Zafft, Forbes, "Shareholder Democracy: McKinsey Partners Oust CEO Sneader:," 25 Feb. 2021 He is scheduled to make his first major address since leaving the White House at an influential conservative conclave, CPAC, next Sunday in Orlando. Sarah Elbeshbishi, USA TODAY, "Exclusive: Defeated and impeached, Trump still commands the loyalty of the GOP's voters," 22 Feb. 2021 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

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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The first known use of conclave was in 1524

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Last Updated

15 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Conclave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for conclave



English Language Learners Definition of conclave

formal : a private or secret meeting or group

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