Definition of cad
- a selfish cad
He is a cad, not a gentleman.
he's the type of cad who readily bad-mouths every girl who's ever dumped him
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cad.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
You might wonder how the word cad came to refer to both a bus conductor and a disagreeable man. Were the bus drivers of yore thought to be particularly unsavory characters? Not necessarily, and there is a reasonable explanation for how we arrived at the most common meaning of this word today (that is, the one for a badly-behaved man).
In 18th-century Scotland, caddie had the meaning “one that waits about for odd jobs.” Shortened to cad, this word took on the additional senses “an unbooked coach passenger” (one who, presumably, waited about for a ride) and “an unskilled assistant or laborer.” The “unbooked passenger” meaning seems to have led to the “omnibus conductor” one. The “odd job-seeker” or “unskilled laborer” sense, for its part, developed into the “disagreeable man” sense at Oxford University, where students applied cad in a dismissive fashion to job-seeking townsmen whom they considered vulgar.
First Known Use: 1833See Words from the same year
: a rude and selfish man
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