Printable Version
Pronunciation: shi-vêl-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass

Meaning: 1. High standard of politeness, highly courteous behavior of men toward women. 2. (Historical) Knights, noblemen, or cavalry collectively.

Notes: We have our choice of adjectives for this word: chivalric or chivalrous. I think the latter is preferred because only it produces a widely used adverb: chivalrously.

In Play: The most common sense of this word refers to politesse and courtesy: "When a man stood up and offered her his seat, she imagined that the age of chivalry was not over." We must not forget the historical meaning of today's Good Word, for historians and authors of historical novels still use it: "Cortez with his entire chivalry paraded proudly down the main street."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Old French chevalerie "chivalry, nobility, art of combat", a derivation of chevaler "knight". Chevaler is a reduction of Medieval Latin caballarius "horseman", based on caballus, Street Latin for "horse". Caballarius is also the source of cavalier, another word English borrowed from French. Caballus replaced the Classical Latin word for "horse", equus, in the provinces, where it became the source of Italian cavallo, French cheval, Portuguese cavalo, and Spanish caballo—all meaning "horse". It turns up in Old Church Slavonic as kobyla "mare", the same word Russian uses for "mare". How the same root turned up in Slavic languages is a mystery, for Latin apparently borrowed caballus, and its origin is unknown. The speculative source, some Balkan or Anatolian language, cannot be proven. (Let's all show gratitude to the chivalrous Gordon Wray for recommending today's endangered Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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