from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An evergreen tree (Syzygium aromaticum) native to the Moluccas and widely cultivated as a source of oil and for its aromatic dried flower buds.
  • noun A flower bud of this plant, used whole or ground as a spice.
  • noun One of the small sections of a separable bulb, as that of garlic.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun One of the small bulbs formed in the axils of the scales of a mother bulb, as in garlic.
  • noun Preterit, and formerly sometimes (for cloven, to which the o in pret. clove is due) past participle, of cleave.
  • noun In England, a weight of cheese, etc. A statute of 1430 makes the clove equal to 7 pounds.
  • noun A ravine or rocky fissure; a gorge: as, the Kaaterskill clove in the Catskill mountains.
  • noun A very pungent aromatic spice, the dried flower-buds of Eugenia caryophyllata, of the natural order Myrtaccæ, originally of the Moluccas, but now cultivated in Zanzibar, the West Indies, Brazil, and other tropical regions. The tree is a handsome evergreen, from 15 to 30 feet high, with large, elliptic, smooth leaves and numerous purplish flowers on jointed stalks. Every part of the plant abounds in the volatile oil for which the flower-buds are prized. Cloves are very largely used as a spice, and in medicine for their stimulant and aromatic properties.
  • noun The tree which bears cloves.
  • noun [F. clou, a nail: see etym.] A long spike-nail.
  • noun A cleft; an opening: as, the clove in the roving-carriage of a cotton-jenny.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • imperative Cleft.
  • imperative (Naut.) See under Hitch.
  • imperative (Naut.) an iron two-part hook, with jaws overlapping, used in bending chain sheets to the clews of sails; -- called also clip hook.
  • noun A cleft; a gap; a ravine; -- rarely used except as part of a proper name.
  • noun A very pungent aromatic spice, the unexpanded flower bud of the clove tree (Eugenia aromatica syn. Caryophullus aromatica), a native of the Molucca Isles.
  • noun (Chem.) See Eugenin.
  • noun (Bot.) any fragrant self-colored carnation.
  • noun (Bot.) One of the small bulbs developed in the axils of the scales of a large bulb, as in the case of garlic.
  • noun Prov. Eng. A weight. A clove of cheese is about eight pounds, of wool, about seven pounds.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb Simple past of cleave.
  • noun A narrow valley with steep sides, used in areas of North America first settled by the Dutch
  • noun Any one of the separate bulbs that make up the larger bulb of garlic
  • noun A very pungent aromatic spice, the unexpanded flower bud of the clove tree.
  • noun botany The tree Eugenia aromatica (syn. Caryophyllus aromatica), native to the Moluccas (Indonesian islands) which produces the spice.
  • noun An old English measure of weight, containing 7 pounds (3.2 kg), i.e. half a stone.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun aromatic flower bud of a clove tree; yields a spice
  • noun spice from dried unopened flower bud of the clove tree; used whole or ground
  • noun moderate sized very symmetrical red-flowered evergreen widely cultivated in the tropics for its flower buds which are source of cloves
  • noun one of the small bulblets that can be split off of the axis of a larger garlic bulb


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French clou (de girofle), nail (of the clove tree), from Latin clāvus, nail.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English clufu; see gleubh- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Dutch kloof

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English, from Old English clufu, cognate with cleofan 'to split', hence with the verbal etymology hereafter

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

An alteration of Middle English clowe, from the first component of Old French clou de girofle, from Latin clāvus ("nail") for its shape. Also see clāva ("knotty branch, club")


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  • "The clove itself grows in clusters colored green through yellow, pink, and finally a deep, russet red. Timing, as with pepper, is everything, since the buds must be harvested before they overripen. For a few busy days of harvest the more nimble members of the community head to the treetops, beating the cloves from the branches with sticks. As the cloves shower down, they are gathered in nets and spread out to dry hardening and blackening in the sun and taking on the characteristic nail-like appearance that gives the spice its name, from the Latin clavus, "nail." The association is common to all major languages. The oldest certain reference to the clove dates from the Chinese Han period (206 BC to AD 220), when the <i>ting-hiang</i> or "nail spice" was used to freshen courtiers' breath in meetings with the emperor."
    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), xxi-xxii.

    November 26, 2016

  • "... Taking into account the loss of four of the five ships, the advances paid to the crews, back pay for the survivors, and pensions and rewards for the pilot, it emerges that once the Victoria's 381 bags of cloves had been brought to market the expedition registered a modest net profit. For the investors it was a disappointment, paltry in comparison with the astronomical returns then being enjoyed by the Portuguese in the East; but it was a profit nonetheless. The conclusion must rate as one of accountancy's more dramatic moments: a small holdful of cloves funded the first circumnavigation of the globe."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 36.

    November 28, 2016

  • This is such fun, c_b.

    November 28, 2016

  • "Via these two writers the Roman kitchen lived on in a strange half life in the halls of the early medieval nobility. Indeed, in one sense both Anthimus and Vinidarius represented an advance on Roman times, since they were aware of the clove, a spice apparently unknown to Apicius. That they were was due to the efforts of unknown others, the crews and merchants of the Arab dhows, Malay outriggers, and Chinese junks pushing east, many thousands of miles away, to the five tiny volcanic islands where the spice grew. By such obscure means the clove appeared in European cuisine the best part of a millennium before any European source makes mention of the Moluccas."

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 89

    December 2, 2016

  • "One of the more intriguing spices mentioned in the Hebrew Bible is <i>shelet</i>, which Greek translators rendered as <i>onyx</i>, meaning 'claw' or 'nail'--was this the clove? It is a suggestive coincidence that in practically every major language group, East or West, the name for the spice means 'nail.'"

    --Jack Turner, _Spice: The History of a Temptation_ (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 243n

    Another usage/historical note, this one re: cloves treating smallpox, can be found on inoculation.

    December 3, 2016

  • "The ever-nosy Pigafetta found roaming around Tidore a delight. At several of the stops, he sought out the plants that produced the wonderful spices and lovingly described them. The clove tree he depicted as tall and 'thick as a man's body' with leaves like those of the laurel, the cloves themselves growing at the end of twigs, ten or twenty to a cluster. 'When the cloves sprout they are white when ripe, red and when dried, black.' He went on to explain that those trees 'grow only in the mountains. ... No cloves are grown in the world except in the five mountains of those five islands."

    --Joyce Appleby, Shores of Knowledge: New World Discoveries and the Scientific Imagination (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2013), p. 55

    December 28, 2016