: a distinct territorial, cultural, or social unit enclosed within or as if within foreign territory
ethnic enclaves

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Enclave comes from French enclaver, meaning "to enclose," which itself is based on the Latin noun clavis, meaning "key." Clavis opened the door to a few other English words, some of which might seem unlikely relatives of enclave. For example, clavicle, the word for the bone that joins the breastbone and the shoulder blade, and the musical sign clef.

Examples of enclave in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This is more than 80% of the enclave’s entire population. Siladitya Ray, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 The city as an international commercial hub could thrive, but the city as liberal, cosmopolitan enclave may wither. Simon Curtis and Ian Klaus, Foreign Affairs, 27 Nov. 2023 During his tour, Netanyahu met Israeli commanders and soldiers deployed to Gaza, and visited part of the vast network of underground tunnels Hamas used to move and hide people and resources in the northern part of the enclave. Margherita Stancati, WSJ, 26 Nov. 2023 But the increase was still far from the prewar daily average of 500 trucks entering Gaza under restrictions set by Israel, which imposed a land and sea blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas seized power in 2007. Hazem Balousha, Washington Post, 26 Nov. 2023 Fuel shortages have caused hospitals to close, stalled the distribution of aid, hindered the ability to prepare food and pump water, and forced two of Gaza’s cellular networks to halt service, contributing to communications blackouts in the enclave. Alan Yuhas, New York Times, 25 Nov. 2023 Meanwhile, the cease-fire planned for at least four days largely held, allowing hundreds of trucks carrying aid and some fuel into the densely populated enclave that has been besieged and bombarded for weeks since Hamas’ surprise terror attack on Oct. 7. Anna Schecter, NBC News, 24 Nov. 2023 In January 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, overseeing a full disengagement from the Palestinian enclave in September of that year. Maeghan Dolph, Fox News, 22 Nov. 2023 More than 1 million Palestinians have been displaced from the north of the coastal enclave to the south, amid a ferocious Israeli ground invasion and relentless airstrikes that have reduced swaths of the territory to rubble. Neri Zilber, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


French, from Middle French, from enclaver to enclose, from Vulgar Latin *inclavare to lock up, from Latin in- + clavis key — more at clavicle

First Known Use

1868, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of enclave was in 1868


Dictionary Entries Near enclave

Cite this Entry

“Enclave.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enclave. Accessed 11 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


en·​clave ˈen-ˌklāv How to pronounce enclave (audio) ˈän- How to pronounce enclave (audio)
: a distinct territorial, cultural, or social group within a foreign region or community

from French enclave "enclave," derived from early French enclaver "to enclose"

Medical Definition


: something enclosed in an organ or tissue but not a continuous part of it
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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