Other forms: cleaving; cleaves; cleaved

Cleave, a verb, has two very different meanings. It can describe cutting or splitting something apart with a sharp instrument, or — oddly enough — it can describe sticking to something like glue.

To cleave or not to cleave, that is the question. Cleave can refer to being in close contact, to staying really, really close to someone or something: "If you are walking in the pitch-black woods without a flashlight, you want to cleave to the person in front of you." On the other hand, it can mean to split apart with a sharp tool — which is not the action you want to happen while walking in the woods. We've seen that movie.

Definitions of cleave
  1. verb
    separate or cut with a tool, such as a sharp instrument
    cleave the bone”
    synonyms: rive, split
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    split (wood) with a maul and wedges
    split (wood) into thin sheets
    type of:
    separate or be separated by force
  2. verb
    make by cutting into
    “The water is going to cleave a channel into the rock”
    rive, split
    separate or cut with a tool, such as a sharp instrument
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    type of:
    create, make
    make or cause to be or to become
  3. verb
    come or be in close contact with; stick or hold together and resist separation
    synonyms: adhere, cling, cohere, stick
    adhere, bind, bond, hold fast, stick, stick to
    stick to firmly
    fasten with an adhesive material like glue
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    fit tightly, follow the contours of
    stick together
    clump together; as of bacteria, red blood cells, etc.
    haemagglutinate, hemagglutinate
    cause the clumping together (of red blood cells)
    type of:
    adjoin, contact, meet, touch
    be in direct physical contact with; make contact
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘cleave'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
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