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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) and Norwegian karrig (meagre, barren, poor). More at care.



chary (comparative charier, superlative chariest)

  1. (obsolete) Sad; sorrowful; grievous.
  2. Disposed to cherish with care; careful.
  3. Cautious; wary; shy.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark act 1 scene 3 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 978-0-399-15446-1 Page 182
      "...When Lord Berek speaks with you and your companions alone, as he must, be chary in your replies."
  4. Sparing; not lavish; not disposed to give freely.
    • 1910 March 19, “For The Care Of The Face”:
      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”, 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”, 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.