- To cleave is to split or separate something, especially along a natural line of separation or using a sharp tool, or to stick or adhere strongly to something or someone.
- When you split a bone in half using a knife, this is an example of cleave.
- When candle wax causes a candle to become firmly stuck to a table, this is an example of a situation where the candle cleaves to the table.
- When you become very attached to someone, this is an example of a situation where you cleave yourself to the person.
transitive verbcleaved or cleft or clove, cleaved or cleft or cloven, cleaving
- to divide by a blow, as with an ax; split
- to pierce
- to sever; disunite
Origin of cleaveMiddle English cleven ; from Old English cleofan; akin to German klieben ; from Indo-European base an unverified form gleubh-, to cut, slice from source Classical Greek glyphein, carve, Classical Latin glubere, to peel
- to split; separate; fall apart
- to make one's way by or as by cutting
verbcleft cleft or cleaved or clove , cleft cleft or cleaved or clo·ven , cleav·ing, cleaves
- To split with a sharp instrument. See Synonyms at tear1.
- To make or accomplish by or as if by cutting: cleave a path through the ice.
- To pierce or penetrate: The wings cleaved the foggy air.
- Chemistry To split (a complex molecule) into simpler molecules.
- To split or be capable or splitting, especially along a natural line of division: Certain brittle woods cleave easily.
- To penetrate or pass through something, such as water or air.
Origin of cleaveMiddle English cleven, from Old English clēofan; see gleubh- in Indo-European roots.
intransitive verbcleaved cleaved, cleav·ing, cleaves
- To adhere, cling, or stick fast.
- To be faithful: cleave to one's principles.
Origin of cleaveMiddle English cleven, from Old English cleofian.
(third-person singular simple present cleaves, present participle cleaving, simple past cleft, clove, or in UK: cleaved, or obsolete clave, past participle cleft, cloven, or in UK: cleaved)
- To split or sever something or as if with a sharp instrument.
- The wings cleaved the foggy air.
- (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.
- To make or accomplish by or as if by cutting.
- The truck cleaved a path through the ice.
- (chemistry) To split (a complex molecule) into simpler molecules.
- (intransitive) To split.
- (intransitive, mineralogy) Of a crystal, to split along a natural plane of division.
From Middle English cleven, from the Old English strong verb clēofan, from Proto-Germanic *kleubaną, from Proto-Indo-European *glewbʰ- (“to cut, to slice”). Cognate with Dutch klieven, dialectal German klieben, Swedish klyva, and Greek γλύφω (glýfo, “carve”).
(third-person singular simple present cleaves, present participle cleaving, simple past and past participle cleaved)