Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Cavalcade

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is cavalcade. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Cavalcade refers to a series or procession of usually related things. It can also be used specifically for a procession of riders or carriages, or vehicles or ships.

// Since the high-powered console’s debut late last year, video game companies have steadily unveiled a cavalcade of new games that showcase its groundbreaking graphics.

CAVALCADE in Context

“Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour made a detour at the White House Friday as the singer performed for a small audience that included President Joe Biden during an event billed as ‘A Night When Hope and History Rhyme.’ John … performed a cavalcade of his greatest hits on the White House South Lawn, including ‘Tiny Dancer,’ ‘Rocket Man,’ ‘Your Song’ and ‘I’m Still Standing.’” — Daniel Kreps, Rolling Stone, 23 Sept. 2022

Did You Know?

Cavalcade is a word with deep equestrian roots, though it comes (via French and possibly Italian) from a Latin word (caballus, meaning “work horse” or “gelding”) that displaced equestrian’s Latin ancestor, equus, as a neutral word for horse in Romance languages. In the 17th century, cavalcade was used specifically to refer to a procession of horseback riders or carriages, especially as part of a special occasion, whether joyous or funereal. Over time, that meaning was extended to processions of other modes of travel, including ships, vehicles, or even paraders on foot or float (as invoked by the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith in his song “Rose Parade” with the lyric “a wink and a wave from the cavalcade”). As a cavalcade of words before and since have done, cavalcade also took on a figurative sense to refer to a series of related things, whether or not they happen to be marching (or trotting) down the road.

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