[kloh-vuh n]
See more synonyms for cloven on
  1. cleft; split; divided: Goats have cloven hoofs.
Related formsun·clo·ven, adjective


verb (used without object), cleaved or (Archaic) clave; cleaved; cleav·ing.
  1. to adhere closely; stick; cling (usually followed by to).
  2. to remain faithful (usually followed by to): to cleave to one's principles in spite of persecution.

Origin of cleave

before 900; Middle English cleven, Old English cleofian, cognate with Old High German klebēn (German kleben)
Related formscleav·ing·ly, adverb


verb (used with object), cleft or cleaved or clove, cleft or cleaved or clo·ven, cleav·ing.
  1. to split or divide by or as if by a cutting blow, especially along a natural line of division, as the grain of wood.
  2. to make by or as if by cutting: to cleave a path through the wilderness.
  3. to penetrate or pass through (air, water, etc.): The bow of the boat cleaved the water cleanly.
  4. to cut off; sever: to cleave a branch from a tree.
verb (used without object), cleft or cleaved or clove, cleft or cleaved or clo·ven, cleav·ing.
  1. to part or split, especially along a natural line of division.
  2. to penetrate or advance by or as if by cutting (usually followed by through).

Origin of cleave

before 950; Middle English cleven, Old English clēofan, cognate with Old High German klioban (German klieben), Old Norse kljūfa; akin to Greek glýphein to carve, Latin glūbere to peel

Synonyms for cleave

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cloven

Historical Examples of cloven

  • Those cataracts of cloven earth; they were done by the grace of God.

    Alarms and Discursions

    G. K. Chesterton

  • Yet let us enjoy the cloven flame whilst it glows on our walls.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • The cloven hoof of the Socialist peeps out from a little group.

  • I was almost happy; the cloven hoof had peeped so damningly out.


    Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer

  • The stride was about eight feet, the marks as of the cloven hoofs of an ox.

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

British Dictionary definitions for cloven


  1. a past participle of cleave 1
  1. split; cleft; divided


verb cleaves, cleaving, cleft, cleaved, clove, cleft, cleaved or cloven
  1. to split or cause to split, esp along a natural weakness
  2. (tr) to make by or as if by cuttingto cleave a path
  3. (when intr, foll by through) to penetrate or traverse
Derived Formscleavable, adjectivecleavability, noun

Word Origin for cleave

Old English clēofan; related to Old Norse kljūfa, Old High German klioban, Latin glūbere to peel


  1. (intr foll by to) to cling or adhere

Word Origin for cleave

Old English cleofian; related to Old High German klebēn to stick
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 cloven

"divided, split," Old English clofen, past participle adjective from cleave (v.1).



"to split," Old English cleofan, cleven, cliven "to split, separate" (class II strong verb, past tense cleaf, past participle clofen), from Proto-Germanic *kleubanan (cf. Old Saxon klioban, Old Norse kljufa, Danish klöve, Dutch kloven, Old High German klioban, German klieben "to cleave, split"), from PIE root *gleubh- "to cut, slice" (see glyph).

Past tense form clave is recorded in Northern writers from 14c. and was used with both verbs (see cleave (v.2)), apparently by analogy with other Middle English strong verbs. Clave was common to c.1600 and still alive at the time of the KJV; weak past tense cleaved for this verb also emerged in 14c.; cleft is still later. The past participle cloven survives, though mostly in compounds.



"to adhere," Middle English cleven, clevien, cliven, from Old English clifian, cleofian, from West Germanic *klibajanan (cf. Old Saxon klibon, Old High German kliban, Dutch kleven, Old High German kleben, German kleben "to stick, cling, adhere"), from PIE *gloi- "to stick" (see clay). The confusion was less in Old English when cleave (v.1) was a class 2 strong verb; but it has grown since cleave (v.1) weakened, which may be why both are largely superseded by stick (v.) and split (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper