cav·​a·​lier | \ ˌka-və-ˈlir How to pronounce cavalier (audio) \

Definition of cavalier

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful (see disdain entry 1) dismissal of important matters a cavalier attitude toward money has a cavalier disregard for the rights of others
2 : debonair
3a capitalized : of or relating to the party of Charles I of England in his struggles with the Puritans and Parliament
b : aristocratic portrayed the plantation owner as a cavalier fop
c capitalized : of or relating to the English Cavalier poets of the mid-17th century



Definition of cavalier (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a gentleman trained in arms and horsemanship
2 : a mounted soldier : knight
3 capitalized : an adherent of Charles I of England
4 : a lady's escort or dancing partner : gallant

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Other Words from cavalier


cavalierism \ ˌka-​və-​ˈlir-​ˌi-​zəm How to pronounce cavalier (audio) \ noun
cavalierly adverb

The Evolution of Cavalier


According to a dictionary prepared by Thomas Blount in 1656, a cavalier was "a knight or gentleman, serving on horseback, a man of arms." That meaning is true to the history of the noun, which traces back to the Late Latin word caballarius, meaning "horseman." By around 1600, it had also come to denote "a roistering, swaggering fellow." In the 1640s, English Puritans applied it disdainfully to their adversaries, the swashbuckling Royalist followers of Charles I, who sported longish hair and swords. Although some thought those cavaliers "several sorts of Malignant Men,… ready to commit all manner of Outrage and Violence," others saw them as quite suave—which may explain why cavalier can be either complimentary or a bit insulting.

Examples of cavalier in a Sentence

Adjective They are too cavalier in their treatment of others. She has a cavalier attitude about spending money. He has a cavalier disregard for the rights of others. Noun a novel about the dashing cavaliers and gracious ladies of the South before the Civil War
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The action begins with an almost careless, cavalier suicide by a young subway worker whose wife, Annie, is pregnant with their first child. Mary Gordon, New York Times, "In Alice McDermott’s Novel, A Cloistered Life Blows Open," 2 Oct. 2017 Such a cavalier attitude towards existing agreements will make future deals harder to strike. The Economist, "Protectionism and its risks," 5 Oct. 2017 For visitors, the idea of taking the wheel is daunting; roads are narrow and lined with limestone walls. Plus, drivers in this sun-drenched, densely populated country of 450,000 are known for a somewhat cavalier attitude. Roy Harris,, "Malta, the island nation just below Sicily, is an increasingly popular stopover," 28 Aug. 2017 Prosecutors in his own office were repulsed and embarrassed by his cavalier dismissal of his own actions. Daniel Borenstein, The Mercury News, "Borenstein: DA Peterson, now a felon, should have quit while ahead," 15 June 2017 For the first time in his career, his character's cavalier attitude towards death doesn't avoid it, but unleashes it. Jake Kring-schreifels, Esquire, "How Tom Cruise Rebranded Himself Into Our Most Reliable Action Hero," 10 June 2017 Doug discovered a notation for choreography for eight women that fit the cavalier music perfectly and costume sketches for eight Sugar Plum Fairy attendants. Leilah Bernstein, Los Angeles Magazine, "These ‘Lost’ Ballets Are Being Performed for the First Time in L.A.," 16 June 2017 My former colleagues at the FBI who are working on this case and have uncovered the full scale of Russia’s efforts must be incredulous at Trump’s cavalier attitude. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: 40 questions for Jeff Sessions," 12 June 2017 Obstetric medicine is like aviation: As even the worst airlines go years without a crash, so can even the most cavalier, careless hospitals go years without a mother or a baby dying or being serious injured. Adam Wolfberg, The Atlantic, "The Doctor Who Revolutionized Hospital-Birth Safety," 26 May 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Health officials suspect younger residents are acting more cavalier as access to vaccinations increases. Elyssa Cherney,, "University of Chicago links COVID-19 outbreak to spring break travel and student gatherings as school expands stay-at-home directive," 19 Apr. 2021 Harrowhark Nonagesimus, having become a powerful immortal necromancer, or Lyctor, at the cost of her cavalier’s life, is fighting battles on several fronts. New York Times, "Site Information Navigation," 25 Nov. 2020 But his dismissive rhetoric about the pandemic struck many older voters as cavalier and indifferent to their health and safety. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "How COVID-19 shaped the 2020 election: It swung some voters to Biden but bolstered Trump with his base," 9 Nov. 2020 Critics at home and abroad have called Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic cavalier and reckless, allowing the virus to surge across Brazil, Latin America’s largest nation. Manuela Andreoni,, "President Bolsonaro of Brazil tests positive for coronavirus," 7 July 2020 Furthermore, oil-and-gas independence seemed to make the Administration cavalier about the Gulf. Bernard Avishai, The New Yorker, "How Israel Views Trump’s Strike Against Iran," 9 Jan. 2020 This time round, opponents will be wiser to the act and look to block out Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold's cavalier runs down the flanks., "Adam Lallana: Liverpool's Forgotten Man Could Be Ideal Deep Lying Playmaker," 18 July 2019 For a quick lesson in cool-girl cavalier, look to Bella Hadid, who headed to Jesse Jo Stark's show at the The Peppermint Club on Tuesday night in an offhand aesthetic defined by easy hair, exposed skin, and a group of in-step girlfriends. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Bella Hadid Turns Crop Top Abs and Good Concert Hair Into a Girl's Night Out Win," 29 Aug. 2018 Nicole Morrison of Houston, who was rescue coordinator for her local cavalier King Charles spaniel club, says cavaliers, for instance, need regular teeth brushing and dental cleanings, as well as weight control to prevent obesity. Kim Campbell Thornton, sacbee, "Adopting the right furry friend for you takes some forethought | The Sacramento Bee," 23 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cavalier.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cavalier


circa 1641, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cavalier

Noun and Adjective

Middle French, from Old Italian cavaliere, from Old Occitan cavalier, from Late Latin caballarius horseman, from Latin caballus

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Time Traveler for cavalier

Time Traveler

The first known use of cavalier was in 1589

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Cite this Entry

“Cavalier.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for cavalier



English Language Learners Definition of cavalier

disapproving : having or showing no concern for something that is important or serious


cav·​a·​lier | \ ˌka-və-ˈlir How to pronounce cavalier (audio) \

Kids Definition of cavalier

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a mounted soldier
2 : a brave and courteous gentleman



Kids Definition of cavalier (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : easy and lighthearted in manner
2 : having or showing no concern for a serious or important matter He has a cavalier attitude about money.

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