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[klee-ver] /ˈkli vər/
a heavy, broad-bladed knife or long-bladed hatchet, especially one used by butchers for cutting meat into joints or pieces.
a person or thing that cleaves.
Origin of cleaver
1325-75; Middle English clevere. See cleave2, -er1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for cleaver
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Thus was shame brought upon cleaver's boy and upon the pride and good name of his sweetheart.

    Cleg Kelly, Arab of the City S. R. (Samuel Rutherford) Crockett
  • Oh, because Isabel made him believe that it would not be fair to Miss cleaver.

    Isabel Leicester Clotilda Jennings
  • Now there was a certain Bailie Holden among the customers of Mr. cleaver.

    Cleg Kelly, Arab of the City S. R. (Samuel Rutherford) Crockett
  • One night he went for his wife with the cleaver and she had to sleep in a neighbour's house.

    Dubliners James Joyce
  • An interview which cleaver's boy had to endure may throw some light upon this.

    Cleg Kelly, Arab of the City S. R. (Samuel Rutherford) Crockett
British Dictionary definitions for cleaver


a heavy knife or long-bladed hatchet, esp one used by butchers
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
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Word Origin and History for cleaver

late 15c., "one who splits," agent noun from cleave (v.1). Originally "one who splits boards with a wedge instead of sawing;" attested as part of a surname from mid-14c. Meaning "butcher's chopper" is from mid-15c.

This last ["Marrowbones and Cleaver"] is a sign in Fetter Lane, originating from a custom, now rapidly dying away, of the butcher boys serenading newly married couples with these professional instruments. Formerly, the band would consist of four cleavers, each of a different tone, or, if complete, of eight, and by beating their marrowbones skilfully against these, they obtained a sort of music somewhat after the fashion of indifferent bell-ringing. When well performed, however, and heard from a proper distance, it was not altogether unpleasant. ... The butchers of Clare market had the reputation of being the best performers. ... This music was once so common that Tom Killigrew called it the national instrument of England. [Larwood & Hotten, "The History of Signboards from the Earliest Times to the Present Day," London, 1867]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cleaver in Science
A bifacial stone tool flaked to produce a straight, sharp, relatively wide edge at one end. Cleavers are early core tools associated primarily with the Acheulian tool culture.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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