1 [kleft]
a space or opening made by cleavage; a split.
a division formed by cleaving.
a hollow area or indentation: a chin with a cleft.
Veterinary Pathology. a crack on the bend of the pastern of a horse.

1300–50; Middle English clift, Old English (ge)clyft split, cracked; cognate with Old High German, Old Norse kluft; akin to cleave2

1. fissure, crevice, crack, rift, cranny, chasm, crevasse. Unabridged


2 [kleft]
a simple past tense and past participle of cleave2.
cloven; split; divided.
(of a leaf, corolla, lobe, or other expanded plant part) having divisions formed by incisions or narrow sinuses that extend more than halfway to the midrib or the base.

see cleft1


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

before 900; Middle English cleven, Old English cleofian, cognate with Old High German klebēn (German kleben)

cleavingly, adverb


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

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

1. halve, rend, rive. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To cleft
World English Dictionary
cleave1 (kliːv)
vb (when intr, foll by through) , cleaves, cleaving, cleft, cleaved, clove, cleft, cleaved, cloven
1.  to split or cause to split, esp along a natural weakness
2.  (tr) to make by or as if by cutting: to cleave a path
3.  to penetrate or traverse
[Old English clēofan; related to Old Norse kljūfa, Old High German klioban, Latin glūbere to peel]

cleave2 (kliːv)
vb (foll by to)
to cling or adhere
[Old English cleofian; related to Old High German klebēn to stick]

cleft (klɛft)
1.  the past tense and a past participle of cleave
2.  a fissure or crevice
3.  an indentation or split in something, such as the chin, palate, etc
4.  split; divided
5.  (of leaves) having one or more incisions reaching nearly to the midrib
[Old English geclyft (n); related to Old High German kluft tongs, German Kluft gap, fissure; see cleave1]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

"to split," O.E. cleofan "to split, separate" (class II strong verb, past tense cleaf, past participle clofen), from P.Gmc. *kleubanan, from PIE base *gleubh- "to cut, slice." Past tense form clave is recorded in Northern writers from 14c. and was used with both verbs (see
cleave (2)), apparently by analogy with other ME strong verbs. Common to c.1600 and still alive at the time of the King James Bible; weak p.t. cleaved also emerged in 14c. for this verb; cleft is still later. The p.p. cloven survives, though mostly in compounds.

"to adhere," O.E. clifian, from W.Gmc. *klibajanan, from PIE *gloi- "to stick." The confusion was less in O.E. when cleave (1) was a class 2 strong verb and cleave (2) a class 1 verb; but it has grown since cleave (1) weakened, which may be why both are largely superseded by stick and split.

O.E. geclyft (adj.) "split, cloven," spelling infl. by cleft, new weak pp. of cleave (1), from P.Gmc. *kluftis.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

cleft (klěft)
A split or fissure between two parts.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
Example sentences
The cleft palate is a common and serious birth defect, but you don't hear much
  about it.
His cleft chin and blue eyes gave him the looks of a movie-star, though one who
  had commanded troops and led uprisings.
Astrocytes have special proteins in their membranes which actively remove
  neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft.
Variations in size or structure of either jaw may affect its shape, as can
  birth defects such as cleft lip and palate.
Image for cleft
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature