• cavalry •
Pronunciation: kæ-vêl-ri • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Mounted troops. 2. A highly mobile military unit equipped with trucks, tanks and helicopters. 3. Rapid rescue from outside.
Notes: Be careful not to metathesize the [v] and the [l], confusing this word with Calvary. The latter word comes from Latin calvaria "skull" from calvus "bare, bald". Calvary was used to translate Aramaic gogoltha "the skull" and Hebrew gulgoleth "skull", both transliterated into Greek as Golgotha, the name of the crucifixion plot near Jerusalem in Biblical times. The plural of today's word is cavalries, and a member of a cavalry is a cavalryman.
In Play: Today's word is used most commonly in reference to rapid rescue arriving from the outside: "I don't think we can fix this computer, but here comes the cavalry," uttered at the arrival of someone who can resolve a tough problem. On the other hand, Yahoo news has reported, "The Apache and Crazy Horse troops of the 7th US Cavalry have been racing across the desert at 25 mph for hours without meeting any opposition."
Word History: Today's Good word was borrowed from the Middle French cavallerie, itself borrowed from Italian cavalleria (see also Portuguese cavalaria and Spanish caballeria). All these words are derived from Latin caballeria from caballarius "horseman, rider", based on caballus "pack horse" or caballa "mare". The Modern French reflex of this word is chevalerie (from cheval "horse") borrowed into English as chivalry. The Age of Chivalry was then the age of knighthood, when horsemanship was at least as important as interpersonal relations.