1 : debonair
2 : marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful dismissal of important matters
Did You Know?
According to a dictionary prepared by Thomas Blount in 1656, a cavalier was "a knight or gentleman, serving on horseback, a man of arms." That meaning is true to the history of the noun, which traces back to the Late Latin word "caballarius," meaning "horseman." By around 1600, it had also come to denote "a roistering swaggering fellow." In the 1640s, English Puritans applied it disdainfully to their adversaries, the swashbuckling royalist followers of Charles I, who sported longish hair and swords. Although some thought those cavaliers "several sorts of Malignant Men,… ready to commit all manner of Outrage and Violence," others saw them as quite suave -- which may explain why "cavalier" can be either complimentary or a bit insulting.
Matthew’s cavalier disregard for other people’s property was evident when he took his sister’s car without asking permission.
"My bandmates are sitting around me while I reset the grenade’s pin and pull it once again, as I have done ten times back at the camp.… Pete, who has been watching me with growing anger and apprehension at my cavalier attitude toward a potential weapon of death, scoops up the grenade from the truck-bed floor and hurls it into the already life-threatening countryside." -- From singer Rick Springfield’s 2010 memoir Late, Late at Night
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
What relative of "cavalier" can refer to a procession (of riders, carriages, vehicles, or ships) or to a series of related things? The answer is ...
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