cleave 1 (klēv)
v. cleft (klĕft) or cleaved or clove (klōv), cleft or cleaved or clo·ven (klōvən), cleav·ing, cleaves
1. To split with a sharp instrument. See Synonyms at tear1.
2. To make or accomplish by or as if by cutting: cleave a path through the ice.
3. To pierce or penetrate: The wings cleaved the foggy air.
4. Chemistry To split (a complex molecule) into simpler molecules.
1. To split or be capable or splitting, especially along a natural line of division: Certain brittle woods cleave easily.
2. To penetrate or pass through something, such as water or air.
[Middle English cleven, from Old English clēofan; see gleubh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.