Latin Roots 12: claudo, claudere, claudi, clausum - to close, confine, limit

clove 1326474 640ClovesAnother fertile Latin root that has been heartily embraced by English is claudo "to close, confine". Claudo is thought to derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *klau- "hook, peg, nail". Hooks and pegs were used as bolts or bars for doors in primitive structures and so it is logical that many current Indo-European words for "key" derive from this ancient source. These include French clé and Italian chiave (from Latin clavis), Greek κλειδί /kle:ði:/, Bulgarian ключ /klju:tʃ/, Polish klawisz and even German SchlüsselThe Latin clavus "nail" also comes from PIE *klau- and it is was borrowed by French as clou de girofle for "clove", the nail-like aromatic spice. French also has clou for a metal nail and clouer for the verb "nail down". Included in the English lexicon are a vast number of words from the claudo source, most of which remain close to their Latin forebears. Close is interesting as it seems to have been borrowed from the Latin base root on a number of separate occasions. It first entered the language in the pre-Old-English period as *klusijan ‎“to close, shut in”. This means that either the word was adopted by the Anglo-Saxons after they arrived in Britain and was taken from the Romano-British, or that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes had borrowed the word when the tribes were still in their Ingvaeonic (North Sea Germanic) homelands. Words like beclose "close up" and foreclose "to cut off, exclude" can be traced back to this earliest borrowing and the subsequent Old English period. In Anglo-Norman times, the word was borrowed again via the Old French adjective clos "close, confined" and the clos- past participle stem of clore "shut, cut off". This resulted in the adoption into English of derived forms like disclose and enclose. Later still, words like include and exclude were taken directly from Latin, as forms of claudo continued to be embraced. Taken together, this is conclusive proof of a remarkably durable and prolific root, which may have been heard in Britain in various forms since the Roman Emperor Claudius orchestrated the conquest of the island, almost two thousand years ago. Now, let's look at the English words taken from the source root claudo and its related Latin terms.


Match the words in the list to their meanings below. Hover your mouse to reveal the answers (tap on mobiles)


  • clauseschaffhausen 82533 640Cloister, Schaffhausen Monastery, Germany
  • claustrophobia
  • clavicle
  • clavis
  • cloister
  • close (n)
  • close (adj)
  • close (v)
  • closet
  • closure
  • cloture
  • clove
  • water-closet 


1.    the act of finishing or closing questionmark 

2.    the collar bone questionmark 

3.    a street which has an entrance but no exit, a cul-de-sac questionmark 

4.    the fear of enclosed or confined spaces questionmark 

5.    near, in the vicinity of questionmark 

6.    a Roman key questionmark 

7.    a group of related words containig a subject and a predicate questionmark 

8.    an enclosed cupboard or cabinet questionmark 

9.    to shut, shut up, seal questionmark 

10.  a small room with a toilet questionmark 

11.  a covered walk around a quadrangle in a convent questionmark 

12.  a motion or process in parliament to bring a debate to a quick end; a guillotine procedure questionmark 

13.  the dried flower bud of a tropical tree, used as an aromatic spice; a small bulb within a compound bulb of garlic, shallot etc questionmark 


note 1314943 640The treble clef (G clef)A number of words associated with music also come from Latin clavis "key"The keys struck on keyboard instruments are the origin of the names of various forerunners of the piano. The clavichord (clavis + chorda) and the harpsichord (French clavecin) both appeared in the fourteenth century. The French for "keyboard", clavier, then gave rise to Klavier for "piano" in German and Dutch. In musical notation, clefs (French for "keys") were devised to serve as a reference point for the pitch of written notes in pieces of music. In the period of Gregorian chant notation, the reference line at the beginning of the musical stave was simply marked with one of the litteræ-clavis "key-letters", usually F or C, and more rarely G. Over time, these litteræ-clavis were modified leading to the current stylised versions of the clef symbols: G with the G clef (treble clef), F with the F clef (bass clef) etc. The percussion instrument, the claves also derives from Latin clavis, while the word clausula "polyphonic section for two or more voices" comes directly from the perfect passive participle of claudo


Next we'll look at the derived forms of the claudo root:


conclude (con- with). Latin concludo "shut up, enclose" is the source for conclude. When we come to a conclusion, we reach the end point of our ruminations. If a criminal case is to be concluded, then the police need to find conclusive proof of who the perpetrator of the crime was, otherwise, the matter will be inconclusive and the case cannot be conclusively brought to a satisfactory close. A conclave, on the other hand, is a room that may be locked with a key, but is also used to describe a secret meeting, especially one in which a new pope is chosen by the body of Catholic cardinals.

disclose (dis- reverse). The prefix dis- gives us two distinct verbs. The first, descended from vulgar Latin disclaudo gives English disclose. When something is disclosed it is no longer hidden and secret, but is revealed to the public. However, a lot of documents may be deemed to be classified or private and will therefore be undisclosed. With the full and frank disclosure of information, the true facts are divulged and not hidden or falsified for 27 years by South Yorkshire police, for example.  

disclude (dis- apart, separate). Disclude "shut off, separate" and its noun disclusion from Latin disclusio are now obsolete and non-standard in every field outside of dentistry, having been replaced by exclude and exclusion. However, they are still current in dentistry where a disclusion refers to "a separation of the teeth upon a slight opening of the jaw" and disclude is used when opposing teeth fail to meet.

enclose (en- in). If you receive a letter and someone's CV is enclosed in the envelope, you can be sure they are applying for a job, and also that the employers are somewhat old-fashioned as an e-mail with attachment would be both faster and more practical. If you enclose a field, however, you put a wall or fence around it to create an enclosure. In the past, an encloser was someone who enclosed common land that was deemed enclosable. In the UK, most land enclosure took place in the 17th and particularly the 18th century on behalf of rich landowners who used their status and influence to appropriate public land for their private benefit, creating a landless working class. An enclave is a territory or part of a territory that is completely surrounded by the territory of a single other sovereign state. The Republic of San Marino is an enclaved country, being entirely surrounded by Italy. A pene-enclave is part of the territory of one country that can only be approached conveniently through another country. such as Kleinwalsertal, Austria, which can only be accessed from Germany.


Billy Bragg: The World Upside Down


exclude (ex- out). If people are excluded from an event, they are barred from entry or participation in an exclusive event. The wealthy and powerful may guard their exclusivity, reserving their parties and gatherings to people from the same set and excluding those who are not considered to be fit company. When a newspaper or media outlet has an exclusive story, it means that it is the only source to publish or broadcast the story. Exclusionary behaviour is the act of excluding others and shutting out the undesirable from, for example, the Queen's garden parties. Exclusions are also all the items in small print at the end of your insurance policy which show that you are not covered for what you thought you'd paid for. The word sluice, an artificial channel for carrying off excess water or washing away solid matter, is a shortened form of Anglo-Norman escluse, also from Latin excludo. A sluice is usually fitted with a sluice gate to regulate the flow of water. An exclave is a  portion of a state geographically separated from the main part of the state by one or more surrounding alien territories. The Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is a landlocked exclave of Azerbaijan. It borders Armenia, Iran and Turkey and has an area of 5,500 km².



Now use some of the words derived from claudio to complete this short text.


When taking control of the Daily Scurve, Winston Grieves took the newspaper from the Gutter Press to the very heart of the sewer. He would encourage his staff to invent _____questionmark_____ stories about people in the public eye, splash them across the front page and wait for the brouhaha that followed. Invariably, he would be sued for libel, but this kept the Scurve in the headlines and kept the masses buying newspapers.  Often he would settle out of court with his affronted victims, discreetly paying _____questionmark_____ sums to stop a lawsuit. Yet, he picked his targets wisely, choosing those who were already unpopular with the public or those who were indisposed or incapable of fighting back. "There's no smoke without fire," was his public mantra, and although he had created the smoke himself, it was inevitable that some of his ill-informed readership would come to the same _____questionmark_____.


For the journalists he employed, Grieves was a hard taskmaster. Their contracts contained secrecy _____questionmark_____ to prevent them from _____questionmark_____ details of their fabricated articles and the confined nature of their working conditions.  Each journalist was given a tiny office - scarcely larger than a _____questionmark_____ - and told to create stories that the credulous masses might believe. _____questionmark_____ in these glorified cells, the journalists would strive to come up with lurid stories, which would be selected at the end of each working day for "development" by a committee headed by Grieves himself. These _____questionmark_____ conditions may have stimulated the imagination, but they also caused a great deal of stress, so the turnover of hacks was high. Eventually, Grieves's luck ran out when he sailed too _____questionmark_____ to the wind. He picked on the wrong target, a powerful business magnate who would not be placated by out-of-court compensatory sums. The Daily Scurve was forced to pay millions in punitive damages and the newspaper folded and _____questionmark_____ down.



foreclose (foras- outside). The verb foreclose has two main meanings. The first and now, unfortunately, most prevalent is used when a lender repossesses a mortgaged property when the mortgagee has not kept up with the mortgage repayments and will therefore be barred from redeeming the mortgage. There were 21.000 foreclosures in the UK in 2014. The second meaning of foreclose is "prevent a course of action occurring" - President Putin's actions in the Crimea have foreclosed any prospects of an invitation to a cordial tea at the White House any time soon. 

include (in- in). An inclusive society is one in which newcomers are welcomed and different viewpoints and cultures are happily tolerated. People who believe in inclusivity wish to include as many different types of people as possible and treat them all equally and fairly. Inclusion in such a society is the dream of many migrants and refugees and anathema to the editorial staff and many of the readers of the Daily Mail. There is a current debate as to whether the UK wishes to remain included as a member of the European Union or wishes to Brexit and turn in on itself.

occlude (ob- to, against). If we occlude something, we obstruct its passage. Cholesterol can occlude the flow of blood in the arteries.  Occlusion in dentistry, however, is the contact between the teeth of the upper jaw and the lower teeth, and is the opposite of disclusion in this sense. An occluded front is a composite weather front that is formed when a cold front overtakes a warm front and thus forces a mass of warm air upwards.

preclude (prae- before, ahead). If a possibility is precluded, it has been ruled out and discounted. Newcastle United have been rubbish for years, but that doesn't preclude the possibility that they may survive in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth. Touch wood. A preclusion is action taken to prevent the possibility of something happening. Locking up Newcastle's rivals prior to kick-off may be a good strategy but may have a preclusive effect in that the referee will not allow the match to go ahead. Action which can be prevented is said to be precludable - we can stop it from happening - on paper, Newcastle's habit of gifting goals to the opposition is precludable, though in practice it appears to be a natural state of affairs.

256px Sri Lankan Slender Loris 2The reclusive Sri Lankan slender lorisreclude (re- again). the verb reclude is now a reclusively shy word that has hidden itself so far from sight that it is tricky to find, although it exists in theory with the sense of "confine, close off". Much more common to come across on the page, though not in life, is a recluse, someone who shuts himself off from society, preferring a reclusive or solitary lifestyle. Many wild animals are reclusive, wishing to stay as far from human encroachment as possible.

seclude (se- apart). If you wish to get away from the crowds in Bulgaria this summer, then it might be best to avoid the Black Sea coast, where finding a secluded spot is a tricky task due to rampant over-development. If you want to seclude yourself away, the mountains might be a better bet as you can still find places there for a bit of peace and seclusion.



 Now practise your claudo knowledge by completing the paragraph below.


The man who was to become Emperor Claudius was a rather unprepossessing figure. Due to his deafness and his limping walk, he was considered to be a monster and the epitome of stupidity by his mother, Antonia, who ostracised him. Claudius was  _____questionmark_____ from public office as his family considered him to be an embarrassment. This resulted in him living a rather _____questionmark_____ lifestyle away from the public gaze. Although the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula were notorious for their purges, Claudius's weakness _____questionmark_____ him from being considered a serious threat. This meant that while other nobles were being butchered, Claudius could _____questionmark_____ himself away from the excesses of his tyrannical predecessors.


Throughout his period of _____questionmark_____ from public life, Claudius gradually became more well-known and respected as a historian and a scholar. When Caligula became Emperor, Claudius's fortunes improved somewhat as he was appointed as co-consul in 37AD and began to be _____questionmark_____ in debates in the senate and in public life. However, Caligula tormented his uncle and regularly humiliated him in public. It is unclear whether information regarding the assassination plot against Caligula in 41 was _____questionmark_____ to Claudius, but it has been suggested that he was at the very least aware it was going to happen. While there is no _____questionmark_____ proof for this, it is certainly true that Claudius left the murder scene shortly before the assassination took place and made sure he was not _____questionmark_____ at hand when the murder was committed. He also pardoned most of those involved in the assassination on his accession to power. Draw your own _____questionmark_____ !


That concludes this blog post. The blog will now close!



Slender loris: By Alex Pyron [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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