Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day


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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.



May 30th, 2016

Episode 540 of 923 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 30, 2016 is: cavalier \kav-uh-LEER\ adjective 1 : debonair 2 : marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful dismissal of important matters Examples: Miranda has a cavalier attitude when it comes to spending money. "At a certain point, however, he opened up,… though under the condition that there be no recorders or notepads. For a guy who was so careful and deliberate and micro-managed everything about his career, he became surprisingly cavalier about being quoted directly—or accurately." — Gary Graff, Billboard.com, 21 Apr. 2016 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.

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