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From Middle English chary, from Old English ċeariġ (careful, sorrowful, pensive, wary, chary, anxious, grievous, dire), from Proto-Germanic *karagaz (anxious, sad), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵār- (voice, exclamation), equivalent to care +‎ -y. Cognate with Dutch karig (scant, sparing, austere), German karg (meagre, barren, poor), Danish karrig (stingy, miserly), Swedish karg (barren, austere, poor, hungry, needy), Norwegian karrig (meagre, barren, poor). More at care.



chary (comparative charier, superlative chariest)

  1. Cautious; wary; shy.
    • c. 1599–1602, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene ii], lines 35–36:
      The chariest maid is prodigal enough / If she unmasks her beauty to the moon.
    • 1598, Shakespeare, Sonnet number 22 lines 11-12
      Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary / As tender nurse her babe from faring ill
    • 2007, Stephen R. Donaldson, Fatal Revenant, →ISBN, page 182:
      "...When Lord Berek speaks with you and your companions alone, as he must, be chary in your replies."
  2. Sparing; not lavish; not disposed to give freely.
    • 1910 March 19, “For The Care Of The Face”, in Spokane (WA) Daily Chronicle:
      We instinctively know that nature supplied the form but, ever chary of favors, has passed on to give the beautiful fare perhaps, to a woman of unlovely form.
    • 1911 February 2, “Old Residence and Two Portraits of Chief Justice Marshall”, in Deseret News (UT):
      Virginia had been somewhat chary of favors to her distinguished son, and it was from a son of Massachusetts that his highest honors came
    • 1918 June 9, “Checking the Teutons on the Western Front”, in Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA):
      American forces on the west of the Soissons salient stopped a German advance and the French, who are chary of compliments, declared that our "lightning trained" men conducted themselves as veterans.
  3. Disposed to cherish with care; careful.
  4. (obsolete) Sad; sorrowful; grievous.