chiv·​al·​ry ˈshi-vəl-rē How to pronounce chivalry (audio)
plural chivalries
: mounted men-at-arms
… the eleven kings with their chivalry never turned back …Thomas Malory
: martial (see martial sense 1) valor
: knightly skill
: gallant or distinguished gentlemen
… Belgium's capital had gathered then her beauty and her chivalryLord Byron
: the system, spirit, or customs of medieval knighthood
but Lancelot on him urged all the devisings of their chivalryAlfred Tennyson
: the qualities of the ideal knight : chivalrous conduct
chivalry demanded of him that he be conspicuous through his gallant, courteous, and generous behaviorH. W. Van Loon

Did you know?

Chivalry is dead, they say. The statement is indisputably true in at least one sense: the word chivalry first referred to medieval knights, as in “the king was accompanied by his chivalry,” and we're quite certain those knights are all long gone. But the word’s meaning has shifted since the 14th century, with other meanings joining the first over the years. Today, chivalry typically refers to an honorable and polite way of behaving, especially by men toward women. And when people say “chivalry is dead” they’re usually bemoaning either a perceived lack of good manners among those they encounter generally, or a dearth of men holding doors for appreciative women. The word came to English by way of French, and is ultimately from the Late Latin word caballārius, meaning “horseback rider, groom,” ancestor too of another term for a daring medieval gentleman-at-arms: cavalier. In a twist, the adjective form of cavalier is often used to describe someone who is overly nonchalant about important matters—not exactly chivalrous.

Examples of chivalry in a Sentence

the knight's code of chivalry He paid her fare as an act of chivalry.
Recent Examples on the Web The honors are the highest orders of chivalry in Britain and Scotland, respectively. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 8 Apr. 2024 Older women might find themselves on the receiving end of more acts of chivalry living overseas. Kathleen Peddicord, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for chivalry 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'chivalry.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English chevalerie, chivalerie, chevalrye, chyvalrie "body of mounted soldiers or knights serving an overlord, knights and their lords as a social class, warfare, feat of arms, values (as valor and generosity) constituting the code of knighthood," borrowed from Anglo-French chevalerie, chivalerie (also continental Old French), from chevaler, chivaler, chivalier "horseman, mounted soldier, knight" + -erie -ery — more at chevalier

Note: Regarding the pronunciation with initial \sh\ see note at chivalrous.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of chivalry was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near chivalry

Cite this Entry

“Chivalry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


chiv·​al·​ry ˈshiv-əl-rē How to pronounce chivalry (audio)
: a body of knights
: the system, spirit, ways, or customs of knighthood
: chivalrous conduct

Middle English chivalrie "group of knights, qualities of knighthood," from early French chevalerie (same meaning), from chevalier "knight, noble horseman," from Latin caballarius "horseman," from earlier caballus "horse" — related to cavalier, cavalry

Word Origin
In the Middle Ages the French referred to a knight as a chevalier. This word is derived from the Latin word for "horseman," caballarius, which in turn comes from Latin caballus, meaning "horse." Knights were supposed to follow a code of conduct which required them to be brave, devoted to duty, and kind to the weak. The French word for these qualities was chevalerie. When this noun was borrowed into English, it became chivalry. Its adjective forms are chivalrous and chivalric. The Latin word for "horseman," caballarius, has also given us two other common English words. One is cavalry, meaning "troops mounted on horseback," and the other is cavalier, which as a noun means "mounted knight, gentleman" and as an adjective means "tending to ignore the rights of others." Cavalier may be traced back through French and Italian to its Latin source. In English, cavalier was used especially to refer to a mounted soldier who was colorful in dress and gallant in manner. During the English Civil War (1641–1649), those who backed the king were called Cavaliers, probably because of their vivid look and stylish manners. Some cavaliers, however, became proud and rude. They showed scorn for people of lower social rank. The result was that the adjective cavalier came to be used to describe such a scornful person.
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