adjective \ ˈcher-ē \
|Updated on: 27 Jun 2018

Definition of chary

charier; chariest
1 archaic : dear, treasured
2 : discreetly cautious: such as
a : hesitant and vigilant about dangers and risks
  • a government chary of getting involved in foreign entanglements
b : slow to grant, accept, or expend
  • a person very chary of compliments


play \ˈcher-ə-lē\ adverb

chary was our Word of the Day on 10/16/2017. Hear the podcast!

Examples of chary in a Sentence

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

Recent Examples of chary from the Web

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

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 and Etymology of chary

Middle English charri "sorrowful, dear, cherished," going back to Old English cearig "troubled, troublesome, taking care," going back to Germanic *karaga- (whence Old Saxon & Old High German karag "sorrowful"), from *karō "sorrow, worry" + *-aga-, by-form of *-iga- 1-y — more at 1care

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

CHARY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of chary for English Language Learners

  • : cautious about doing something

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peaceful, happy, or prosperous

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