Definition of chary
- a government chary of getting involved in foreign entanglements
- a person very chary of compliments
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chary investors who weren't burned by the dot-com bust
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."
First Known Use: 15th centurySee Words from the same year
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