How Well Do You Know English Slang?
dried flowerbud of a certain tropical tree, used as a spice, late 15c., earlier clowes (14c.), from Anglo-French clowes de gilofre (c.1200), Old French clou de girofle "nail of gillyflower," so called from its shape, from Latin clavus "a nail" (see slot (n.2)). For second element, see gillyflower. The two cloves were much confused in Middle English. The clove pink is so called from the scent of the flowers.
"slice of garlic," Old English clufu "clove (of garlic), bulb, tuber," from Proto-Germanic *klubo "cleft, thing cloven," from PIE *gleubh- "to tear apart, cleave" (see cleave (v.1)). Its Germanic cognates mostly lurk in compounds that translate as "clove-leek;" e.g. Old Saxon clufloc, Old High German chlobilouh. Dissimilation produced Dutch knoflook, German knoblauch.
"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cleave (v.1) was a class 2 strong verb; but it has grown since cleave (v.1) weakened, which may be why both are largely superseded by stick (v.) and split (v.).