Originated in the United States in 1793, as cauvaut, applying to horses, probably from the colloquial intensifying prefix ca-/ka- + vault (“jump, leap”); later generalized. Early sources connect it to cavault, a term for a certain demeanor of horses. Alternatively, a variation of curvet.
- (originally intransitive, of horses) To prance, frolic, gambol.
- 1920, Peter B. Kyne, chapter I, in The Understanding Heart:
- […] when the young man whirled his horse, “hazed” Jupiter in circles and belaboured him with a rawhide quirt, […] He ceased his cavortings […]
- (intransitive) To move about carelessly, playfully or boisterously.
- (informal) To engage in extravagant pursuits, especially of a sexual nature.
- Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “cavort”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
- “The Way We Live Now: 7-14-02: On Language; Cavort”, William Safire criticizes White House rhetorics who apparently use the word to mean consort, and discusses its possible origins.