Chivalry (OED)

From Wayne's Dusty Box of Words

chivalry 'SIvelrI, 'tSIvelrI. Forms: 3-4chy-, chivalerye, -ie, 4chevalerie, chyualrie, 4-5chiualrye, 4-6cheuelry(e, chevelry, Sc. chewalry, 4-7chevalrie, -ry, chyualry(e, chivalrie, 5cheyvalery(e, chevallry, 6chevalree, 7chivaldry, -altry, 5-chivalry.

Etymology: ME ., a. OFr. chevalerie (11th c.), chivalerie = Pr. cavalaria, Sp. caballería, Pg. cavallería, Ital. cavalleria knighthood, horse-soldiery, cavalry,  a Romanic deriv. of late L. caballerius (Capi tularies 807):-L. caballari-us rider, horseman, cavalier: see -ery, -r y. (The same word has in later times come anew from Ital. into Fr. and Eng., as cavalerie, cavalry .) As a ME. word the proper historical pronunciation is with tS-; but the more frequent pronunciation at present is with S-, as if the word had been received from modern French.

1 collect. Knights or horsemen equipped for battle.

a The contemporary name for the `men-at-arms', or mounted and fully armed fighting-men, of the Middle Ages. Obs. (In OF. chevalier translates miles, chevalerie = militia.)

  • C. 1300 K. Alis. 1495 - He schipeth into Libie, With al his  faire chivalrie.
  • C. 1320 Sir Beues 2217 - Thai wolde after vs..Wip wonder-gret cheualrie, And do vs schame and vileinie.
  • 1393 Gower Conf. III. 252 - A parte of the chivalrie With him to suppe in compaignie Hath bede.
  • C. 1400 Mel ayne 203 - With fourty thowsande chevalry Of worthy men of Were.
  • 1485 Malory Arthur i. xiv. (Globe) 39/2 - The  eleven kings with their chivalry never turned back.
  • 1523 Ld. Berners Froiss. I. ccx xvii. 302 - Sir John Mountfort..had..taken all the cheualry of Bretayne.

b as collective sing. A body of men-at-arms.

  • 1375 Barbour Bruce iv. 187 - King Eduard..gaderit a gret cheuelry.

c Applied by early translators to the horsemen (ippoj, equitatus, equites) of ancient Greece and Rome, for which cavalry is the modern equivalent. Obs.</SPAN>

  • 1529 Rastell Pastyme (1811) 15 - Lucius  Tarquinius..captayn of cheualry.
  • 1552 Lyndesay Monarche 4030 - Prince Tytus, with his Chewalrye.
  • C. 1580 Sidney Psalms xx. vi, - Let trust of some men be In chariots, and some in chivalry [hi in curribus et hi in  equis].
  • 1581 Marbeck Bk. Notes 651 - Hermogenes master of the  Chiualrie, was slaine.
  • 1796 Potter Antiq. Greece i. xxvi. (1715) 181 - The chivalry shall be detacht out of the most puissant and wealthy Athenians.

d Rarely applied to "> cavalry in the ordinary modern sense. Obs.</SPAN>

  • 1560 Whitehorne Arte of Warre 59 a.
  • 1693 Luttrell Brief Rel. (1857) III. 65 - The elector of Bavaria had remounted his chivalry.

e As a historical term for the medieval men-at-arms. Occasionally applied poetically or idealistically to `cavalry' or `horsemen' in general, esp. when chivalrous gallantry is attributed.

  • 1556 Chron. Gr. Friars (1852) 13 - The lordes and chevaltre of France..wolde have stoppyd [Hen. V] the kynges waye, that he shulde not passe to  Callys.
  • 1570 B. Googe Pop. Kingd.i. (1880) 5 - decke the fieldes with lustie cheualrie.
  • 1597 Shaks. 2 Hen. IV, ii. iii. 20 - A nd by his Light Did all the Cheualrie of England moue To do braue Acts.
  • 1667 Milton P.L.i. 307 - The Red-Sea Coast, whose waves orethrew Busiris and his Memphian Chivalrie.
  • 1667 Milton P.L. 765 - At the Soldan's Chair Defy'd the best of Panim Chivalry To mortal Combat.
  • 1776 Gibbon Decl. & F. I. xv. 518 - A valorous knight, who charged at the head of the Spanish chivalry..against the Moors.
  • 1802 Campbell Hohenlinden, - Wave, Munich! all thy banners wave, And charge with all thy chivalry!
  • 1836 W. Irving Astoria II.311 - They met with some of the `chivalry' of that noted pass.
  • 1843 Prescott Mexico v. ii. (1864) 281 - Cortez and his chivalry rode down the whole extent of the great street.

f In more extended and complimentary sense: Gallant gentlemen.

1816 Byron Ch. Har. iii. xxi, - There was a sound of revelry by night, And Belgium's capital had gathered then Her Beauty and her Chivalry, and bright The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men.

  • A. 1839 Praed Poems (1864) II. 408 - When Loveliness and Chivalry Were me t to feast together.
  • 1883 W. H. Brewer in Daily Tel. 10 July 5/3 - The galloping turf was for the chivalry of the South.

2 As at one time the `chivalry' constituted the main strength of a  medieval army (the arc hers, slingers, etc. being mere subordinate adjuncts), the word had sometimes the value of `army', `host'.

  • 1382 Wyclif Gen. xxi. 33 - Phicol, the prince of his chyualrye [Vulg. princeps exercitus ejus].
  • 1388 Wyclif Jer. xix. 13 - Thei sacrifieden to al the chyualrie [1382 kny3thed] of heuene.
  • 1450-1530 Myrr. our Ladye 275 - All the chyualry of heuen prayseth her.
  • 1483 Caxton Gold. Leg. 94/3 - A grete companye of  cheualrye of heuen.

3 The position and character of a knight, knighthood. a generally. Obs.

  • 1297 R. Glouc. (1724) 216 - Tho hii seye her kyng aslawe, flour of chyualerye!
  • C. 1385 Chaucer L.G.W. 1818 Lucrece, - Whi hast tow don dispit to chiualrye? Whi hast thow don this lady vilanye?
  • 1393 Gower Conf. III. 237 - How this king in womanhede Was falle fro chivalerie.
  • 1486 Bk. St. Albans, Her. A iiij b, - Foure vertues of  cheualry.
  • 1579 Spenser Sheph. Cal., To his Bk., - To him that is the President Of Noblesse and of chevalree.
  • 1601 Weever Mirr. Mart. C iiij, - Gre at Bolingbrooke this type of chiualrie.
  • 1606 Shaks. Tr. & Cr.i. ii. 249 - Braue Troylus the Prince of Chiualrie.
  • 1700 Dryden Fables, Pal. & Arc.i. 101 - He swore That by the faith which knights to knighthood bore, And whate'er else to chivalry belongs.
  • 1779-81 Johnson L.P., Butler Wks. II. 185 - Pedantic ostentation of knowledge which has no relation to chivalry.

b In early use, esp. Bra very or prowess in war; warlike distinction or glory. Phrase, to do chivalry. Obs.

  • 1297 R. Glouc. (1724) 211 - He bed hym sywy, trwelyche to do chyualerye.
  • C. 1325 Chron. Eng. 225 in Ritson Metr. Rom. II. 279 - Hy weren men of Chevalerie.
  • 1375 Barbour Bruce ii. 345 - Thai saw Thar fayis ridand..Willful to do chewalry.
  • C. 1386 Chaucer Prol. 45 - Fro pe time pat he ferst bigan To riden out, he louede chyualrye Trouthe and honour fredom and curtesye.
  • C. 1400 Destr. Troy 5985 - Thurghe Achilles chiualry hom cheuyt the worse.
  • ? C. 1475 Sqr. lowe Degre 1054 - He hath bene in Lombardy And done he hat h great chyvalry.
  • 1480 Caxton Chron. Eng. ccxxvi, - So through Godde's helpe he had then the victory and bare thens a glorious chyvalrye.
  • 1513 Douglas Aeneis xi. Prol. 1 - Hie renowne of Martis cheu elrie.
  • 1534 Whittinton Tullyes Offices i. (1540) 28 - The desyre of fame by chyualry [studium bellicæ gloriæ].
  • 1593 Shaks. Rich. II, i. i. 203 - You shall see Iustice designe the Victors Chiualrie.
  • 1593 Shaks. Rich. IIii. i. 54 - This England..Renowned..For Christian seruice, and true Chiualrie.
  • 1652 Brome Joviall Crew Prol., - No Power can redresse Th' Afflicted Wanderers, though stout Chevalry Lend all his aid for their  delivery.

c The military art (of the middle ages), knightly skill and practice in arms and martial achievements. arch.

  • C. 1440 Promp. Parv. 76 - Chyualry or knyghtehoode, milicia.
  • 1475 Bk. Noblesse 21 - Vegecius in his boke of Chivalrie [Institutio Rei militaris].
  • 1481 Caxton Myrr.i. v. 29 - It happed neuer..that clergye cheualrye & laboures of therthe myght be well knowne by one only man.
  • 1489 Caxton Faytes of A.i. i. 1 - Experte in the arte of chyualrye.
  • 1551 Robinson tr. More's Utop.ii. ix. (Arb.) 157 - The resydewe of t he daye they passe ouer in playes and exercise of  cheualrye [exercitio militaris disciplinæ].
  • 1611 Bible Pref. 2 - He excelled in feates of chiualrie.
  • 1616 Bullokar, - Chiualrie, Knighthood, the Knowledge of a Knight or Nobleman in feats of armes.
  • 1618 Bolton Florus (1636) 104 - Spaine, that brave martiall Countrey, ennobled for Chevalry [viris armisque nobilem].
  • 1655 Francion i-iii. 73 - My greatest pastime..was to read the feats of Chivaldry.
  • 1805 Scott Last Minst. 8 - The last of all the Bards was he, who sung of Border Chivalry.


  • 1387 TrevisaHigden (Rolls) VI. 49 - [They] pat goop to holy chevalrie [ad sacram militiam].

d Knighthood as a rank or order. arch.

  • C. 1450 Merlin xii. 186 - Who so myght take ordere of chiualrye moste in eny wise be a gode knyght.
  • 1483 Caxton Gold. Leg. 336/4 - Thenne the quene..made them alle to swere this newe chyualrye.
  • 1608 Shaks. Per. ii. ii. 29 - His device, a wreath of chivalry.
  • 1625 Bacon Ess., Greatness Ki ngd. (Arb.) 491 - There be now, for Martiall Encouragement, some Degrees and Orders of Chiualry; which neuerthelesse, are conferred promiscuously, vpon Soldiers, and no Soldiers.
  • 1663 Butler Hud. i. 18 - Never bent his stubborn knee To anything but Chivalry.
  • 1796 H. Hunter tr. St. Pierre's Stud. Nat. (1799) III. 488 - That an order of Chivalry might be instituted, in imitation of the Civic Crown.

4 A feat of knightly valour; a gallant deed, exploit. Obs. or arch.

  • 1297 R. Glouc. (Rolls) 4578 - He smot of is heued as li3tliche as it were a stouple . That was is laste chiualerye.
  • C. 1375 BarbourBrucevi. 12 - How ony man sa suddandly Micht do sa gret a cheuelry.
  • C. 1450 Merlin xiv. 220 - Many feire chivalryes shewed on the oo parte and on the tother.
  • 1485 CaxtonParis & V. 16 - Eche of you do Valyantly hys armes and h ys chyvalryes.
  • C. 1580 Sidney (J.) - Acts less famous, because they were but private chivalries.
  • 1823 LockhartSpan. Ball., Introd. 13 - In the..chivalries celebrated in the Castilian Ballads.

5 The knightly system of feudal times with its attendant religious, moral, and social code, usages, and practices. age of chivalry: the period during which this prevailed.

  • 1765PercyReliq. Prelim. Ess., - K. Richard I..the  great hero of Chivalry.
  • 1774WartonEng. Poetry I. i. 65 - The ideas of chivalry, the appendage and the subject of Romance, subsisted among the Goths.
  • 1790BurkeFr. Rev. Wks. V. 149 - The age of chivalry is gone..The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroick enterprise is gone!
  • 1823ByronJuanxiii. xi, - Cervantes smiled Spain's chivalry away.
  • 1829 < b>Arnold in Life & Corr. (1845) I. 255 - If I were called upon to name what spirit of evil predominantly deserved the name of Antichrist, I should name the spirit of chivalry-the more detestable for the very guise of the `Archangel ruined', which has made it so seductive to the most generous minds.
  • 1841-4EmersonEss. Hist. Wks. (Bohn) I. 12 - The student interprets the age of chivalry by his own age of chivalry.
  • 1855 MilmanLat. Chr.vii . vi, - Chivalry..left upon European manners..a punctilious regard for honour, a generous reverence for justice, and a hatred of injustice.
  • 1857 BuckleCivilis. I. ix. 579 - In the eleventh century there arose the celebrated institution of chivalry, which was to manners what feudalism was to politics.
  • 1876 FreemanNorm. Conq. V. xxiv. 482 - in morals very much what feudalism is in law; each substitutes..obligations devised in the interests of an exclusive class, for the more homely duties of an honest man and a good citizen.

6 The brave, honourable, and courteous character attributed to the ideal knight; disinterested bravery, honour, and courtesy; chivalrousness.

  • 1790 Burke [see 5].
  • 1822 K. Digby Broadst. Hon. (1829) 89 - Chivalry is only a name for that general spirit or state of mind which disposes men to  heroic and generous actions.
  • 1855 Milman Lat. Chr. vii. vi, - All the noble sentiments, which blended together are chivalry.
  • 1862 Trollope Orley F. xl. (ed. 4) 289 - He felt himself cling to her himself. Such was the special chivalry of the man.
  • 1874 Sidgwick Meth. Ethics iii. viii. Sect.2. 302 - Generosity or Chivalry towards adversaries or competitors seems to consist in shewing as much kindness and regard for their well-being as is compatible with the ends and conditions of conflict.
  • 1885 L. Stephen in Athenæum 28 Nov. 696/3 - Chivalry of feeling, as I understand the word, means a refinement of the sense of justice-an instinctive capacity for sympathizing with every one who is the victim of oppression.

7 Flower of Chivalry: in various senses: a Flower  or fairest type of knighthood, or of feudal chivalry; b the prize or  highest honour of knightly prowess; c the choice portion of a force of  armed knights.

  • 1297 [see 3 a].
  • C. 1386 Chaucer Knightes T. 124 - And in his hoost of Chiualrie the flour.
  • C. 1440 Partonope 1227 - The rereward..wherin the floure Is herbowred of his Cheualrye.
  • C. 1440 Partonope 1902 - This hethen kyng..Which of chevalry  beryth the flour Of alle the sette in hethen lay.
  • 1494 Fabyan vii. ccxxxiv. 269 - The kynge..with the flowre of  that Chyualry of Fraunce set forthward.
  • C. 1500 Lancelot 2181 - The flour of knychthed and of  chevalry.
  • 1587 Thynne Holinshed in Animadv. (1865) Introd.  77 - Which duke [Black Prince], being the flower of Chivalrie in his time.
  • 1590 Spenser F.Q.i. viii. 26 - Flowre of chevalrie.
  • 1700 Dryden Fables, Pal. & Arc.i. 120 - His host, the flower of Grecian chivalry.
  • 1795 Southey Joan of Arc xii. 517 - Our English swords...Cut down the flower of all their chivalry.
  • 1821 Southey Vis. Judgem. viii, - He of the sable mail, the hero of Cressy, Flower of chivalry.
  • 1833 Longf. Coplas de Manrique xxxix, - When all the flower of ch ivalry Was in his train.

8 Old Law. Tenure by knight's service (abolished in 1662, and since only Hist.). guardian or warden in chivalry: The guardian of a minor holding by knight's service. Obs. exc. Hist.

  • 1292 Britton iii. ii. Sect.1 - Plusours maneres de tenures dount touz les plus sount de chevalerie et de graunt serjaunties.
  • 1574 tr. Littleton's Tenures 10 b, - And them [xx. acres of  lande] hath and o ccupieth as warden in chivalry duringe the chyldes nonage.
  • 1641 Termes de la Ley 57 b, - The services are all by Littleton divided into two sorts, Chivalry and Socage; the one martiall and military, the other clownish and rusticall.
  • 1765 Blackstone Comm.ii. v, - Incident to the tenure in chivalry.
  • 1876 Green Short Hist. ix. 607 - The conversion of lands held till then [12 Car. II. cap. 24] in chivalry into lands held in common soc age.

9 Court of Chivalry (curia militaris): a court formerly held before the Lord High Constable and the Earl Marshal of England, having cognizance of matters relating to deeds of arms out of the realm. When deprived of its criminal jurisdiction it continued to judge civil cases concerning points of honour and family distinction. Obs.

  • 1616 Selden tr. Fortescue xxxii, - So as the Cognisance of it belong to the jurisdiction of the sa id Court of Chivalry. Note: That Court..hath long been discontinued..The Court of Chivalrie, wherein all matters of Armes, Treason committed beyond Sea, Warre, and the like, which could not be tried at the Common Law, were determinable.
  • 1644 Coke On Litt. iv. xvii, - The  Honorable Court of Chivalry before the Constable and Marshall..this Court is the fountain of the Marshall law.
  • 1863 H. Cox Instit. ii. ii. 321 footnote.

10 improperly. Team of horses. cf. cheval.

  • 1863 Worsley Poems & Trans., Phaethon 12 - Nor even thus..had curbed That chivalry divine.

11Comb., as chivalry-play, -ribbon, -romance.

  • 1827 Carlyle Misc. (1857) I. 52 - The Sentimentalists, the Chivalry-play writers.
  • 1839 Carlyle Chartism iii. 121 - Chivalry-ribbons, and plebeian gallows-ropes.
  • 1849 Southey Comm.-pl. Bk. Ser. ii. 230 - The chivalry-romances are all battles.