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From Latin clāvis. Doublet of clef.



clavis (plural clavises or claves)

  1. (archaeology) A Roman key.
    • 1873, "Proceedings", April 9th, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 29: 202:
      Iron clavis, the solid web-shaped at the edges to fit the wards in the lock, and having a pointed broach and a kite-formed looped haft.
  2. A device for restraint of the hands.
    • 1904, Luther V. Bell, quoted in The Arena, 32: 540:
      His hands were restrained by means of a clavis and bolt (of iron), appropriated to each wrist, and united by a padlock.
  3. A glossary.
    • 1784, William Cowper, in [1836] Robert Southey (ed.), The Works of William Cowper, with a Life of the Author, volume V, page 54:
      Homer, with a clavis, I have had possession of some years.
  4. (biology) A key; an identification guide; a series of logically organized groups of discriminating information which aims to allow the user to correctly identify a taxon.
    • 1921, Journal of Botany 59: 180:
      There are many disadvantages in using a clavis intended for another country, which necessarily includes plants that are absent from our islands while it omits some that are present and neglects the peculiarities of our island flora.


Related terms[edit]






  1. second-person singular present subjunctive form of clavar


clāvis (a key)


From Proto-Italic *klāwis. Either a secondary i-stem derivation of the Proto-Indo-European *kleh₂u- (nail, pin, hook - instruments, of old use for locking doors) which gave also Latin clāvus (nail), an inherited Indo-European word originally denoting an instrument for unlocking doors, or a loanword from Ancient Greek κλείς (kleís).


  • (Classical) IPA(key): /ˈklaː.u̯is/, [ˈkɫ̪äːu̯ɪs̠]
  • (Ecclesiastical) IPA(key): /ˈkla.vis/, [ˈklɑːvis]
  • (file)


clāvis f (genitive clāvis); third declension

  1. key
    • 27 BCE – 25 BCE, Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita libri 24:
      Post hanc orationem claves portarum pecuniaeque regiae ante pedes eorum posuit.
      After this discourse he laid the keys of the gates and of the royal treasure at their feet.
    • 405 CE, Jerome, Vulgate Iudicum.3.25:
      [] et videntes quod nullus aperiret tulerunt clavem et aperientes invenerunt dominum suum iacentem in terra mortuum
      [] and, behold, he did not open the doors; therefore they took a key and opened [the doors] to enter [but] their lord was lying dead on the ground.
  2. lever or bar for tightening a screw press

Usage notes[edit]

Not to be confused with clāva (club) or clāvus (nail).


Third-declension noun (i-stem, accusative singular in -em or -im, ablative singular in -e or ).

Case Singular Plural
Nominative clāvis clāvēs
Genitive clāvis clāvium
Dative clāvī clāvibus
Accusative clāvem
Ablative clāve
Vocative clāvis clāvēs

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


See also[edit]


  • clavis in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • clavis in Charlton T. Lewis (1891) An Elementary Latin Dictionary, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • clavis in Charles du Fresne du Cange’s Glossarium Mediæ et Infimæ Latinitatis (augmented edition, 1883–1887)
  • clavis in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré Latin-Français, Hachette
  • clavis in Harry Thurston Peck, editor (1898) Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, New York: Harper & Brothers
  • clavis in William Smith et al., editor (1890) A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, London: William Wayte. G. E. Marindin