• cavalcade •
kæ-vêl-keyd • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A mounted procession of horseback riders, horse-drawn carriages, or both. 2. A flamboyant procession of dignitaries. 3. A planned sequence of remarkable events or people, as a show featuring a cavalcade of vintage cars.
Notes: Cavalcade is one of those words used rather frequently by people who do not have a completely clear idea of its meaning. A cavalcade once required horses (see Word History), but now it can refer to any showy procession. English hijacked the end of this word, -cade, to form by analogy motorcade "a procession of vehicles".
In Play: Cavalcades in the original sense (a mounted procession) are a rarity today, but you might want to say, "There were several cavalcades of horse-fanciers in the Rose Parade this year." The word is probably overused in the last two meanings: "A veritable cavalcade of corporate executives passed through the doors of US courts at the turn of the millennium."
Word History: Today's word was borrowed from French cavalcade, which today can mean "stampede". French borrowed it from cavalcata, the past participle of Old Italian cavalcare "to ride on horseback". The Latin original emerged in Spanish as cabalgada. Today's word is related to cavalry and cavalier, which French, for reasons of its own, converted to chevalerie. English then borrowed this word as chivalry. The Italian word descended normally from Medieval Latin caballicare from Latin caballus "horse". This word is related to Black Sea Greek kaballeion "horse-drawn vehicle" and Russian kobyla "mare", and may have been borrowed from the ancestor of Finnish hepo "horse". In Classic Greek it turned up as hippos "horse," found in hippopotamus, literally, "river horse."
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