Trend Watch


What does it mean to have a cavalier attitude?

Lookups for cavalier spiked during the first presidential debate, following Clinton's statement that Trump's "cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling." It's not the first time the word has trended during this election.

Cavalier previously spiked on May 26th, following Barack Obama's statement that leaders of other countries were concerned by Donald Trump.

“They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements but they’re rattled by him, and for good reason,” Obama said. “A lot of the proposals that he has made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting tweets and headlines instead of actually thinking through what it is required to keep America safe.”
Christi Parsons, The Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2016

Cavalier can function as a verb, adjective, or noun in English (the latter two parts of speech are the more common ones), and has been in regular use since the 16th century. The earliest sense in which the noun was used, according to our records, was to refer to a raised fortified structure. It also has had the meaning of “a gentleman trained in arms” since at least the end of the 16th century.

Although the first sense in which cavalier was used as an adjective is "debonair” it also quickly took on connotations of insouciance, the sense in which President Obama appears to have used it recently. In other words, he was suggesting that Trump's proposals were "marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful dismissal of important matters."

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