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  1. a covered walk, especially in a religious institution, having an open arcade or colonnade usually opening onto a courtyard.
  2. a courtyard, especially in a religious institution, bordered with such walks.
  3. a place of religious seclusion, as a monastery or convent.
  4. any quiet, secluded place.
  5. life in a monastery or convent.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to confine in a monastery or convent.
  2. to confine in retirement; seclude.
  3. to furnish with a cloister or covered walk.
  4. to convert into a monastery or convent.
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Origin of cloister

1250–1300; Middle English cloistre < Anglo-French, Old French, blend of cloison partition (see cloisonné) and clostre (< Latin claustrum barrier (Late Latin: enclosed place); see claustrum)
Related formsclois·ter·less, adjectiveclois·ter·like, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for cloister

Historical Examples

  • For five years Angelique lived and grew there, as if in a cloister, far away from the world.

    The Dream

    Emile Zola

  • But, to say he turned his eyes upon the cloister keys, is a mere figure of speech.

    The Channings

    Mrs. Henry Wood

  • The convent-bell struck midnight, and there was a foot-fall in the cloister.

  • This enclosed, quiet residence vaguely recalled the cloister.

    Therese Raquin

    Emile Zola

  • Here they may have supported the wooden roof of a cloister or porch.

British Dictionary definitions for cloister


  1. a covered walk, usually around a quadrangle in a religious institution, having an open arcade or colonnade on the inside and a wall on the outside
  2. (sometimes plural) a place of religious seclusion, such as a monastery
  3. life in a monastery or convent
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  1. (tr) to confine or seclude in or as if in a monastery
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Derived Formscloister-like, adjective

Word Origin

C13: from Old French cloistre, from Medieval Latin claustrum monastic cell, from Latin: bolt, barrier, from claudere to close; influenced in form by Old French cloison partition
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for cloister


early 13c., from Old French cloistre "monastery, convent; enclosure" (12c., Modern French cloître), from Medieval Latin claustrum "portion of monastery closed off to laity," from Latin claustrum (usually in plural, claustra) "place shut in, enclosure; bar, bolt, means of shutting in," from past participle stem of claudere (see close (v.)).

"The original purpose of cloisters was to afford a place in which the monks could take exercise and recreation" [Century Dictionary]. Spelling in French influenced by cloison "partition." Old English had clustor, clauster in the sense "prison, lock, barrier," directly from Latin, and cf. from the same source Dutch klooster, German Kloster, Polish klasztor.

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c.1400 (implied in cloistered), from cloister (n.). Figurative use from c.1600. Related: Cloistered; cloistering.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper