- 1[transitive] cleave something (old-fashioned or literary) to split or cut something in two using something sharp and heavy She cleaved his skull (in two) with an axe. (figurative) His skin was cleft with deep lines.
- 2[intransitive, transitive] (old-fashioned or literary) to move quickly through something cleave through something a ship cleaving through the water cleave something The huge boat cleaved the darkness. to cleave a path through the traffic
- 3[intransitive] cleave to something/somebody (literary) to stick close to something/somebody Her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth.
- 4[intransitive] cleave to something (formal) to continue to believe in or be loyal to something to cleave to a belief/idea Word Origin senses 1 to 2 Old English clēofan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch klieven and German klieben. senses 3 to 4 Old English cleofian, clifian, clīfan, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch kleven and German kleben, also to climb.Idioms to be in a difficult situation when any action you take will have bad results
BrE BrE//kliːv//; NAmE NAmE//kliːv//Less commonly, cleft /kleft/ and clove
BrE BrE//kləʊv//; NAmE NAmE//kloʊv//are used for the past tense, and cleft and cloven
BrE BrE//ˈkləʊvn//; NAmE NAmE//ˈkloʊvn//for the past participle.Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they cleave
BrE BrE//kliːv//; NAmE NAmE//kliːv//he / she / it cleaves
BrE BrE//kliːvz//; NAmE NAmE//kliːvz//past simple cleaved
BrE BrE//kliːvd//; NAmE NAmE//kliːvd//past participle cleaved
BrE BrE//kliːvd//; NAmE NAmE//kliːvd//-ing form cleaving
BrE BrE//ˈkliːvɪŋ//; NAmE NAmE//ˈkliːvɪŋ//