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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English cleven, from the Old English strong verb clēofan (to split, to separate), from Proto-Germanic *kleubaną, from Proto-Indo-European *glewbʰ- (to cut, to slice). Cognate with Dutch klieven, dialectal German klieben, Swedish klyva, and Ancient Greek γλύφω (glúphō, carve).
See more at Slovene globok.


cleave (third-person singular simple present cleaves, present participle cleaving, simple past cleft or clove or (UK) cleaved or (archaic) clave, past participle cleft or cloven or (UK) cleaved)

  1. (transitive) To split or sever something with, or as if with, a sharp instrument.
    The wings cleaved the foggy air.
    1611, Bible (King James Version), Psalms 78:15:
    Hee claue the rockes in the wildernes: and gaue them drinke as out of the great depthes.
    • Shakespeare
      O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.
  2. (transitive, mineralogy) To break a single crystal (such as a gemstone or semiconductor wafer) along one of its more symmetrical crystallographic planes (often by impact), forming facets on the resulting pieces.
  3. (transitive) To make or accomplish by or as if by cutting.
    The truck cleaved a path through the ice.
  4. (transitive, chemistry) To split (a complex molecule) into simpler molecules.
  5. (intransitive) To split.
    1611, Bible (King James Version), Numbers 16:31:
    And it came to passe as he had made an ende of speaking all these words, that the ground claue asunder that was vnder them:
  6. (intransitive, mineralogy) Of a crystal, to split along a natural plane of division.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


cleave (plural cleaves)

  1. (technology) Flat, smooth surface produced by cleavage, or any similar surface produced by similar techniques, as in glass.
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Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English cleven, from Old English cleofian, from Proto-Germanic *klibjaną, from Proto-Indo-European *gleybʰ- (to stick). Cognates include German kleben, Dutch kleven.


cleave (third-person singular simple present cleaves, present participle cleaving, simple past and past participle cleaved)

  1. (intransitive) To cling, adhere or stick fast to something; used with to or unto.
    1611, Bible (King James Version), Ruth 1:14:
    And they lift vp their voyce, and wept againe: and Orpah kissed her mother in law, but Ruth claue vnto her.
    1611, Bible (King James Version), 2 Kings 3:3:
    Neuerthelesse, hee cleaued vnto the sinnes of Ieroboam the sonne of Nebat, which made Israel to sinne; he departed not therefrom.