1816, in geology, "action of splitting (rocks or gems) along natural fissures," from cleave (v.1) + -age. General meaning "action or state of cleaving or being cleft" is from 1867.
The sense of "cleft between a woman's breasts in low-cut clothing" is first recorded 1946, defined in a "Time" magazine article [Aug. 5] as the "Johnston Office trade term for the shadowed depression dividing an actress' bosom into two distinct sections;" traditionally first used in this sense by U.S. publicist Joseph I. Breen (1888-1965), head of the Production Code Administration (replaced 1945 by Eric Johnston), enforcers of Hollywood self-censorship, in reference to Jane Russell's costumes and poses in "The Outlaw."
cleavage cleav·age (klē'vĭj)
A series of cell divisions in the ovum immediately following fertilization. Also called segmentation.
The splitting of a complex molecule into two or more simpler molecules. Also called scission.
The linear clefts in the skin, indicating the general direction of the fibers in the dermis.