\ ˈcher-ē How to pronounce chary (audio) \
charier; chariest

Definition of chary

1 : 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
2 archaic : dear, treasured

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from chary

charily \ ˈcher-​ə-​lē How to pronounce charily (audio) \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for 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

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."

Examples of chary in a Sentence

chary investors who weren't burned by the dot-com bust
Recent Examples on the Web The autocratic Chinese government is also chary of any display of mass mobilization, even benign ones like Pride. Charlie Campbell / Shanghai, Time, "'We’ll Just Keep on Marching.' Tenth Shanghai Pride Spotlights China's Changing Attitudes Toward Gay Lifestyles," 15 June 2018 Rising interest rates in America prompted investors to take a charier view of emerging markets. The Economist, "How to play Argentina," 14 June 2018 And Steve Jobs was chary of children using his iThings. Hayley Krischer, New York Times, "It’s 10 P.M. Do You Know What Apps Your Children Are Using?," 6 Sep. 2017

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.

See More

First Known Use of chary

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for 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- -y entry 1 — more at care entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about chary

Time Traveler for chary

Time Traveler

The first known use of chary was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about chary

Statistics for chary

Cite this Entry

“Chary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for chary


How to pronounce chary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of chary

: cautious about doing something

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on chary

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for chary

Spanish Central: Translation of chary

Nglish: Translation of chary for Spanish Speakers

Comments on chary

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Original Meanings Quiz

  • rembrandt painting a young scholar and his tutor
  • Which of the following is the earliest known sense of the word awe?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!