chiv·​al·​ry | \ ˈshi-vəl-rē How to pronounce chivalry (audio) \
plural chivalries

Definition of chivalry

1 : mounted men-at-arms … the eleven kings with their chivalry never turned back …— Thomas Malory
2 archaic
a : martial (see martial sense 1) valor
b : knightly skill
3 : gallant or distinguished gentlemen … Belgium's capital had gathered then her beauty and her chivalry— Lord Byron
4 : the system, spirit, or customs of medieval knighthood but Lancelot on him urged all the devisings of their chivalry— Alfred Tennyson
5 : the qualities of the ideal knight : chivalrous conduct chivalry demanded of him that he be conspicuous through his gallant, courteous, and generous behavior— H. W. Van Loon

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Did you know?

In days of old when knights were bold, Anglo-French speakers used the word chevaler (an ancestor of our word chevalier) for a knight or horseman. By the 14th century, English speakers had adopted the slightly modified spelling "chivalry" to describe their own well-armored, mounted warriors. Nowadays, when we say that chivalry is not dead, we are alluding to the high standard of character and conduct typically associated with gallant knights. If you trace "chevaler" back to Late Latin, you'll find that it derives from "caballarius," which is also the ancestor of another term for a daring medieval gentleman-at-arms: "cavalier."

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 Abigail should be used to men treating her with chivalry and respect. Kristen Baldwin,, 17 Aug. 2021 Goodness would seem to overlap with aspects of chivalry: keeping one’s word, providing for the vulnerable, helping the lost. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, 3 Aug. 2021 The game advances, and with it a test of wits and mettle, chivalry and courage — the kind that every knight aspirant must endure and master. Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2021 The story follows an Arthurian knight (Patel) being tested for his chivalry by a giant green being. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 5 June 2021 Modern society is in dispute over the value of chivalry. Jennifer Wollock, The Conversation, 23 Mar. 2021 His glimmering, smart-aleck flow now sounded grizzled and spooked, toggling between slurred, super-villain threats and Old English chivalry. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 5 Jan. 2021 For Andrew, however, protecting Christian refugees — as well as their clergy and institutions — was less a duty of chivalry and more a demand of charity. Nr Symposium, National Review, 6 Dec. 2020 Who knew chivalry could look so good in deep space? David Betancourt, Washington Post, 20 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'chivalry.' 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 chivalry

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for chivalry

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.

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

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Last Updated

31 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Chivalry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for chivalry



English Language Learners Definition of chivalry

: the system of values (such as loyalty and honor) that knights in the Middle Ages were expected to follow
: an honorable and polite way of behaving especially toward women


chiv·​al·​ry | \ ˈshi-vəl-rē How to pronounce chivalry (audio) \

Kids Definition of chivalry

1 : the system, spirit, ways, or customs of knighthood
2 : very honorable and courteous behavior


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