\ 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

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Other Words from chary

charily \ ˈcher-​ə-​lē How to pronounce chary (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 That tone is most obvious in the author’s chary regard of his icon. John Semley, The New Republic, 26 May 2021 Evangelical Christians, traditionally chary of getting involved in partisan politics. Rick Perlstein, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Aug. 2020 The autocratic Chinese government is also chary of any display of mass mobilization, even benign ones like Pride. Charlie Campbell / Shanghai, Time, 15 June 2018 Rising interest rates in America prompted investors to take a charier view of emerging markets. The Economist, 14 June 2018 And Steve Jobs was chary of children using his iThings. Hayley Krischer, New York Times, 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.

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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

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

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Last Updated

3 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Chary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for chary



English Language Learners Definition of chary

: cautious about doing something

More from Merriam-Webster on chary

Nglish: Translation of chary for Spanish Speakers


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