arrogant, disrespectful


cavalier (adjective) = hochmütig, leichtfertig, anmaßend, rücksichtslos, ungeniert, ungezwungen ——- cavalier (noun) = ein Anhänger von Karl I. von England



“Safety, training lapses endanger FBI undercover agents, … Another potentially compromising factor, not covered by the inspectors … is the ‘CAVALIER’ attitude some agents can develop toward the rules of engagement.”

Joe Davidson, Columnist - The Washington Post (13th January 2023)


“No 10 accused of ‘CAVALIER attitude’ to UK’s climate summit duties … Boris Johnson’s advisers did not understand how vital UN Cop26 talks were, former minister tells MPs.”

Fiona Harvey - Environment correspondent, The Guardian (1 December 2020)

Did you


- not considering other people’s feelings or safety

- not serious or caring enough about matters that other people are serious about

The Cambridge Dictionary / The American Dictionary


- a horseman, especially a mounted soldier; knight

- a gallant or courtly gentleman, especially one acting as a lady’s escort

- A courtesan or noble under Charles I of England, particularly a royalist partisan during the English Civil War which ended his reign

The Cambridge Dictionary / Collins Dictionary


The adjective “cavalier” comes from a noun referring to a gentleman or knight who is trained in arms and horsemanship. The noun traces back to Latin caballārius, meaning “horseback rider” or “groom”. It is also used for “a swaggering fellow” (ein Wichtigtuer).

English Puritans used “cavalier” disdainfully to describe their adversaries, the royalist followers of Charles I, who wore longish hair and waved swords. This historical use undoubtedly contributed to cavalier’s modern association with arrogance and disrespect.


The English adjective “cavalier” is easy for German speakers to misinterprete because of its similarity to the German noun “Kavalier”, which means a polite, chivalrous man (Mann, der besonders Frauen gegenüber taktvoll, hilfsbereit und höflich ist und dadurch angenehm auffällt—Duden).

In summary:

cavalier ≠ Kavalier (= polite, chivalrous man)
cavalier = rücksichtslos

Below are more commonly-heard examples. Do you know them all?

(NOTE: Nr 2. is amusing, nr 8. is dangerous!)

1. actual ≠ aktuell (= current)
    actual = tatsächlich, eigentlich, echt

2. backside ≠ Rückseite (= the back, the other side, the reverse)
    backside = Hintern, Hinterteil, Po

3. beamer ≠ Projektor (= computer/video projector)
    beamer = BMW vehicle

4. chef ≠ Chef = (boss, line manager)
    chef = Chefkoch

5. consequent ≠ konsequent (= consistent)
    consequent = folgend

6. control ≠ kontrollieren (= check, examine)
    control = steuern, lenken, beherrschen

7. map ≠ Mappe (= folder)
    map = Landkarte

8. must not ≠ muß nicht (= don’t have to)
    must not = darf nicht

9. oldtimer ≠ Oldtimer  (= classic/veteran/vintage car)
    oldtimer = alter Mann, old cowboy


- haughty or arrogant, especially in one’s disregard for something

assumptive, bumptious, CAVALIER, cocksure, cocky, hifalutin, high-and-mighty, high-handed, high-hat, huffy, “I’m all right, Jack”, jumped up, immodest, imperious, impertinent, indifferent, lacking civility, lofty, lordly, offhand, peremptory, perfunctory, pompous, presumptuous, smug, sniffy, snobbish, snobby, snooty, snot-nosed, stiff-necked, supercilious, toffee-nosed, uppish, uppity, ungallant, ungenteel, ungentlemanly, unladylike, vainglorious, wisenheimer

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“It’s a good idea to know the most common false friends in a second language. For historical reasons the adjective ‘CAVALIER’ is almost opposite in meaning to the German noun Kavalier.”

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