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 Three of the 13 men are 80 or over and thus ineligible to vote in any conclave to elect a new pontiff. Washington Post, "Pope names 13 new cardinals, including 2 who help migrants," 1 Sep. 2019 After an extraordinary family conclave at the queen’s country residence, Sandringham, the queen offered the couple what amounted to a bare-bones severance package. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Prince Harry and Meghan Exit Britain, Stage West," 10 Mar. 2020 Underscoring the point, the country’s leaders on Monday were forced to postpone their biggest political conclave of the year, the National People’s Congress. Mark Landler, New York Times, "Spreading Across Continents, a Lethal Virus Tests a Fraying Global Order," 24 Feb. 2020 Yet in Wuhan, local cadres were focused on a days-long Communist Party conclave that was scheduled to run from Jan. 11 to Jan. 17. Anchorage Daily News, "Early missteps, state secrecy in China likely allowed coronavirus to spread farther and faster," 2 Feb. 2020 Apart from Trump, this was a conclave of the conservative establishment celebrating the battle scars of one of its oldest members. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "What Ed Meese’s Presidential Medal of Freedom Says About the G.O.P. and Impeachment," 10 Oct. 2019 Organized by Partners HealthCare, this is a huge conclave that will explore how artificial intelligence is changing the practice of medicine., "You're using a browser set to private or incognito mode.," 24 Dec. 2019 But until this year, the process was like a papal conclave: solemn, secretive and far from public view. Paul Farhi, Washington Post, "Reality TV show or solemn political ritual? The New York Times turns the TV cameras on its candidate endorsement process.," 18 Jan. 2020 Outside, smog drifted in and out of the low plain, while Chinese media buried all mention of the conclave. Jillian Dunham, Longreads, "At Mrs. Balbir’s," 28 Jan. 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

16 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Conclave.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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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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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for conclave

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with conclave

Spanish Central: Translation of conclave

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

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