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adjective \ˈcher-ē\

Simple Definition of chary

  • : cautious about doing something

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of chary


  1. 1 archaic :  dear, treasured

  2. 2 :  discreetly cautious: as a :  hesitant and vigilant about dangers and risks b :  slow to grant, accept, or expend <a person very chary of compliments>

charily play \ˈcher-ə-lē\ adverb

Examples of chary in a sentence

  1. <chary investors who weren't burned by the dot-com bust>

Did You Know?

It was sorrow that bred the caution of "chary." In Middle English chary meant "sorrowful," a sense that harks back to the word's Old English ancestor "caru" (an early form of "care," and another term that originally meant "sorrow" or "grief"). In a sense switch that demonstrates that love can be both bitter and sweet, "chary" later came to mean "dear" or "cherished." That's how 16th century English dramatist George Peele used it: "the chariest and the choicest queen, That ever did delight my royal eyes." Both sorrow and affection have largely faded from "chary," however, and in Modern English the word is most often used as a synonym of either "careful" or "sparing."

Origin of chary

Middle English, sorrowful, dear, from Old English cearig sorrowful, from caru sorrow — more at care

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of chary

cautious, circumspect, wary, chary mean prudently watchful and discreet in the face of danger or risk. cautious implies the exercise of forethought usually prompted by fear of danger <a cautious driver>. circumspect suggests less fear and stresses the surveying of all possible consequences before acting or deciding <circumspect in his business dealings>. wary emphasizes suspiciousness and alertness in watching for danger and cunning in escaping it <keeps a wary eye on the competition>. chary implies a cautious reluctance to give, act, or speak freely <chary of signing papers without having read them first>.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up chary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


expressing little or no emotion

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