cloister or enclosure?

Nunty

Senior Member
Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
Now, I am a person who lives in monastery that has both a cloister and an enclosure so I know the difference. The cloister is the square bit of garden and covered walkways in the middle of the main building (think "nuns pacing" and you'll probably see it in your mind), and the enclosure is all those parts of the monastery that are reserved to the resident nuns (in our case, but also monks in their monatery) only.

Here is my question. Do normal people know the difference? If I say "enclosure", which is the term that is really called for in my current translation, will it be understood? Or should I just grit my teeth and use "cloister" as being better understood, though inaccurate?

Thanks!
:)
 
  • Mick

    Senior Member
    British English
    If I read 'cloister' I would picture exactly what you describe. I'm not familiar with the term 'enclosure' in this context but I'd rather read that than have the wrong picture brought to mind. It would make me look up the word and learn something!
     

    SPQR

    Senior Member
    US
    American English
    Now, I am a person who lives in monastery that has both a cloister and an enclosure so I know the difference. The cloister is the square bit of garden and covered walkways in the middle of the main building (think "nuns pacing" and you'll probably see it in your mind), and the enclosure is all those parts of the monastery that are reserved to the resident nuns (in our case, but also monks in their monatery) only.

    Here is my question. Do normal people know the difference? If I say "enclosure", which is the term that is really called for in my current translation, will it be understood? Or should I just grit my teeth and use "cloister" as being better understood, though inaccurate?

    Thanks!
    :)
    I would make no assumptions about me being a "normal" person, but let me give you an Abby-normal perspective (pun intended :D).

    I had no idea that the two words had such technical meanings. When I saw "enclosure" I thought about anything with walls or fences - a house, a church, a building, a corral, a yard.

    For "cloister" I thought of a building that held a variety of people of Western religious sentiment.

    If you are writing an educational piece, then I might put the words in quotes and give a quick definition in parenthesis. I wouldn't assume the general public knows the difference.
     

    mjscott

    Senior Member
    American English
    As a teen, I shared a plane seat next to a nun who was going to be cloistered. She said that she would pray for the world but not be in the world. As a Protestant, I'd not heard the word. Since that time, I thought that a cloister was a place of seclusion where nuns separated themselves from the world--only for prayer an/or silence and prayer.

    An enclosure sounds like a compound--the grounds where a monastery might be.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Hmm... no consensus. I hope more people will chime in. ("Chime", get it? Like church bells?)
    :)
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    I hope I qualify as normal. I am familiar with both those terms, but the destinctions were lost on me. I would guess the very few people would have an accurate working definitions of the terms. If you want to use these terms, I would recommend defining them first. Or abandoning them all together for more common ones. If you use 'courtyard' for 'cloister', most would understand that, and a simple 'building' for 'enclosure' would work also.
     

    Old Novice

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I'm another vote against the assumption that people generally will know the terms as you use them. I learned your meaning for "cloister" only very recently, on a tour, and I've never heard "enclosure" used this way. And I've had a lot of years to learn these things! :)
     

    MiamianIsraeli

    Senior Member
    English Israel (originally from the US)
    Enclosure is a much more common word than cloister. It also refers to more than architectural features. For example, if you send a letter with extra materials, those materials are called "enclosures."
     

    Mick

    Senior Member
    British English
    Enclosure is a much more common word than cloister. It also refers to more than architectural features. For example, if you send a letter with extra materials, those materials are called "enclosures."
    Yes, but we're talking about 'enclosure' in this specific context. I think 'cloister' is more widely known when refering to holy buildings, but then that's me. I recall the term from school, but not 'enclosure', and if you visit big churches/cathedrals you often get signs for the 'cloister' but, for obvious reasons, not the 'enclosure'.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Welcome to EO, Miamian, in case no one has welcomed you yet.

    Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions. Since I cannot footnote this material, and we have no consensus here, I think I'll have to do some creative wording. Sigh. Today is not the day for that...

    :)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Imagine, posting a question here about the views of "normal people":eek:

    Cloister would be OK, I think, THIS kind of thing. HERE is a cloister complete with sister :)

    If I were to read a description of a monastery that mentioned cloister that's what would come to mind.
    If it mentioned enclosure, I would be a bit puzzled, but recognising that in any such places that I have visited there was always a part that was closed to the public I would probably guess right quite quickly.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Right on both counts, Panj. And judging by what I can discern of her habit, the nun is from my own Order!

    My text deals with enclosure in a friary. I think I will either use "enclosure" and damn the torpedos (huh?) or wimp out again and say "private quarters".

    Today has definitely not been my day. Good thing that every rotten day has a tomorrow full of... [see my sig]
    :)
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Can't you even add something like the "pillared" cloister (since peristylium instead of cloister wil probably confuse instead of help)? Some sort of adjective I mean (for both cloister and enclosure).
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Well, I could do so, Ireney, but the text I'm translating is about the enclosure. I offered cloister to the group because I'm afraid that the general public will not understand enclosure.

    I do not have to submit the translation yet (which is a good thing, since it's not finished), so I'm going to sleep on this one and see if tomorrow brings inspiration.

    Thank you everyone. You are all fantastic!
    :)
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    Right on both counts, Panj. And judging by what I can discern of her habit, the nun is from my own Order!

    My text deals with enclosure in a friary. I think I will either use "enclosure" and damn the torpedos (huh?) or wimp out again and say "private quarters".

    Today has definitely not been my day. Good thing that every rotten day has a tomorrow full of... [see my sig]
    :)
    I thought only the Poor Ladies were enclosed - not the Friars. Aren't they mendicants?
     

    Corbu

    New Member
    English, United States
    Per Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word "cloister" can refer to a monastic establishment OR an area within a monastery or convent to which the religious are normally restricted OR monastic life itself OR a covered passage on the side of a court usually having one side walled and the other an open arcade. So it can legitimately be used in several ways. I personally have heard or read the word "cloister" used in ALL of the above senses.

    As someone who has read a fair amount about monasticism and has met nuns who are members of orders that observe strict enclosure, I know the meaning of "enclosure," but I would think that average folks who are unacquainted with monastic life would at least pick up from it the sense of a special space with restricted access.
     

    MiamianIsraeli

    Senior Member
    English Israel (originally from the US)
    Welcome to EO, Miamian, in case no one has welcomed you yet.

    Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions. Since I cannot footnote this material, and we have no consensus here, I think I'll have to do some creative wording. Sigh. Today is not the day for that...

    :)
    Thank you Sister.:) It's nice to be here.
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Let me add my hearty welcome as well! :) It wasn't until I read your profile that I realized "Miamian" meant "from Miami." I had thought you were a girl named Mia. :eek:

    Elisabetta
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I thought only the Poor Ladies were enclosed - not the Friars. Aren't they mendicants?
    I am a Poor Lady, in fact; today we are called the Order of Saint Clare or Poor Clares in English. The friars are mendicants; you are absolutely right. However, today they have parts of their convents (see an earlier post of mine in this thread if the word bothers you) that are reserved for them only. These parts are called the enclosure. It is not as strict as in, for example, a Trappist monastery, but it does exist.

    As someone who has read a fair amount about monasticism and has met nuns who are members of orders that observe strict enclosure, I know the meaning of "enclosure," but I would think that average folks who are unacquainted with monastic life would at least pick up from it the sense of a special space with restricted access.
    I am sure your knowledge is extensive, and I thank you for your exhaustive post. My problem is not with the correct terminology -- as a strictly enclosed nun I have some familiarity with that -- but with how to express it to "average folks", so I thank you for sharing your sense of how they might understand things.

    I'm going to sleep on this. 'Nite all.
    :)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    My problem is not with the correct terminology -- as a strictly enclosed nun I have some familiarity with that...
    I am tickled by the concept of a strictly enclosed nun who is in daily contact with people from dozens of countries via this forum. :) It somehow bends my definition of "strictly enclosed."
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    We have only had Internet since July 2006. I can use the forum because it is a tool necessary for my work, like a backhoe or a floorwaxer or a microscope...

    But it tickles me, too, actually.
    :)
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    We have only had Internet since July 2006. I can use the forum because it is a tool necessary for my work, like a backhoe or a floorwaxer or a microscope...

    But it tickles me, too, actually.
    :)
    Well, off-topic though it may be, I, for one, am very grateful that you're allowed internet access. I've learned a great deal from your posts. You do good service here. :)
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    OK, guys. You're making me blush. Here in the enclosure, which contains the cloister...
    :)
    It would appear that you have both solved your problem and worded your text in a way that will educate the general public slightly in the ways of the Order.
    A clever rewording if I may say.

    .,,
     

    jimreilly

    Senior Member
    American English
    I would probably understand if you wrote:

    The enclosure, which is the part of the monastery not open to any visitors, contains the cloister, where flowers bloom and monks do walk in spring.

    But, as you can tell from many of my posts, I am far from being a normal person.....
     

    rotte001

    Senior Member
    USA English
    In my opinion (as a translator), using "cloister" to mean "enclosure" in the technical sense that you are attempting to convey would be inappropriate. Most English speakers would not assume that "enclosure" meant "cloister", though they would almost surely not know the technical monastic definition for the term. Even the OED provides only marginal assistance, listing one definition of "enclosure" as "the state of being enclosed (in a monastery)".

    If you decide to use "enclosure" in its technical sense, you should probably append a brief definition in parentheses or in a footnote.

    Hope this helps.

    David
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Now, I am a person who lives in monastery that has both a cloister and an enclosure so I know the difference. The cloister is the square bit of garden and covered walkways in the middle of the main building (think "nuns pacing" and you'll probably see it in your mind), and the enclosure is all those parts of the monastery that are reserved to the resident nuns (in our case, but also monks in their monatery) only.

    Here is my question. Do normal people know the difference? If I say "enclosure", which is the term that is really called for in my current translation, will it be understood? Or should I just grit my teeth and use "cloister" as being better understood, though inaccurate?

    Thanks!
    :)
    The university I attended has an area known as the cloisters - a covered, colonnaded passage around an open court.

    The musical "Salad Days", which dates from 1954, is set among a group of students who have just finished university. In one of the songs, The things that are done by a don, they reminisce about "Swallowing oysters in the cloisters" - and they weren't nuns!

    So cloister does not automatically mean convent or monastery to me.

    Given my religious background, I understand what is meant by "enclosed" [and discalsed :D ], but I'm not 'normal'.

    Depending on your target audience, you make need to explain the terms.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I would dearly love to use parentheses and footnotes, but -- as I did not make clear in advance -- this is short (3000 characters) text for the news section of the Internet site of a local Church institution. I need to find a solution that is pithy, accurate, easily understood and not too irritating to my word-lover's conscience.
    :)
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Thank you, everyone for your help. MJScott, I'm sorry, but your suggestion reflects exactly the common misunderstanding of the word "cloister". (You might want to read the first post with which I opened this thread, where I tried to explain the difference.)

    Given the context and all that, I decided to use "the enclosure, that part of the convent that is reserved for the friars only".

    Thanks again for all your thoughtful suggestions!
    :)
     
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