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From Latin clāvis (a key). Doublet of clef.



clavis (plural clavises or claves)

  1. (archaeology) A Roman key.
    Synonym: key
    • 1873, “Proceedings of the Association”, in Journal of the British Archaeological Association[1], volume 29, April 9th, page 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.
    Synonym: shackles
    • 1904, B. O. Flower, “Editorials”, in B. O. Flower, editor, The Arena[2], volume 32, VI. Dr. Bell shows how hopeless insanity was a fruit of public parsimony, page 540, column 2:
      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.
    Synonyms: glossary, idioticon, vocabulary
    • 1784 July 12, William Cowper, “To the Rev. William Unwin.”, in Robert Southey, editor, The Works of William Cowper, with a Life of the Author[3], volume 5, published 1836, page 54:
      Homer, with a clavis, I have had possession of some years.
  4. (taxonomy) 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.
    Synonyms: identification guide, conspectus, key
    • 1921, Alexander Irvine, “Short Notes: Rosa spinosissima×rubiginosa×f. cantiana, forma nova”, in Journal of Botany, British and Foreign, volume 59, number 702, page 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 of clavar


Latin Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia la
clāvis (a key)

Etymology 1[edit]

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 dialectal Ancient Greek *κλᾱϝίς (*klāwís) (Classical κλείς (kleís)), from the same Proto-Indo-European root.



clāvis f (genitive clāvis); third declension

  1. a key
    • 27 BCE – 25 BCE, Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita 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. Ellipsis of clāvis trochī.: an instrument in the form of a key, by which a top was set in motion
  3. a lever or bar for tightening a screw press
    Synonym: clāvis torculārī
Usage notes[edit]

Not to be confused with clāva (a staff, cudgel, club) or clāvus (a 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]
  • Balkan Romance:
    • Aromanian: cljai
    • Romanian: cheie
  • Dalmatian:
  • Italo-Romance:
  • Padanian:
  • Gallo-Romance:
    • Catalan: clau
    • Franco-Provençal: cllâf
    • Old French: clef (see there for further descendants)
    • Occitan: clau
  • Ibero-Romance:
    • Aragonese: clau
      Ribagorçan: cllau
    • Asturian: llave
    • Galician: chave
    • Portuguese: chave (see there for further descendants)
    • Spanish: llave (see there for further descendants)
  • Insular Romance:
  • Borrowings:

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 with additions by D. P. Carpenterius, Adelungius and others, edited by Léopold Favre, 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

Etymology 2[edit]



  1. dative/ablative plural of clāvus

Etymology 3[edit]



  1. dative/ablative plural of clāva