The Word-Hoard: Cavalcade




1. A line of people, walking, on horses, or in vehicles, who are moving slowly as part of a ceremony.

2. A number of important people, things, or events appearing or happening in a short space of time.


“Cavalcade” originally referred to a horseback procession, and shares the same Latin root as “cavalier.” Throughout the  years its meaning expanded to include people on foot or riding other forms of conveyance, as well. “The “cade” ending eventually spun off into words like “motorcade.”

There’s nothing wrong with describing a procession of knights and carriages as such, but it’s definitely worth knowing, as a writer, that you can simply employ “cavalcade” instead.


One day, as Claus sat before his door to enjoy the sunshine while he busily carved the head and horns of a toy deer, he looked up and discovered a glittering cavalcade of horsemen approaching through the Valley.

When they drew nearer he saw that the band consisted of a score of men-at-arms, clad in bright armor and bearing in their hands spears and battle-axes.

– L. Frank Baum, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902)


  1. ‘and shares the same Latin root as “cavalier.” ‘

    Which Latin root is itself derived from the Gaulish/P-Celtic word for “horse”–the native Latin term being “equus”. The same root in “cavalry” as well. Gaulish horsemen were a huge influence within the Roman cavalry after the conquest of Gaul. Numerous other Gaulish/Celtic terms made it into Roman military lingo as well. Caligae, gladius and lancea are all, ultimately, of Celtic derivation.

    • Hey deuce! Good to see you around!

      I feel like I may have seen that mentioned in one of the online dictionaries I was reading, but I’m not sure I follow the line. Cavalcade and cavalier derive from “caballus,” which supposedly displaced “equus.” So “caballus” is from Gaulish, then?

      • Gaulish “caballos”, yeah. Compare it also to Welsh “ceffyl” (another P-Celtic language related to Gaulish). Further back (ie, the Primitive/Old Welsh period), you have the Welsh name for King Arthur’s dog, Cabal. A dog named “Horse”.

        We know with absolute certainty that “equus” was the older word for “horse” in Latin. Then, after the conquest of Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), “caballus” suddenly starts entering the vocabulary. The Gauls (and Celts in general) were a very equine-oriented people. The Classical Romans were not. A vestige of their primitive Indo-European heritage survived in the noble class of “equites” (“horse-men”), but it meant little by the time they encountered the Gauls. Romans were ground-pounders. Numerous words related to horses, weapons/armor and wheeled vehicles entered the Latin vocabulary after the conquest of the two Gauls.

        You see similar borrowings of Norse nautical terms into Old English and Old Irish after the Viking conquests. A closer analogy would be to the adoption of numerous Spanish words (like “canyon”) into American English after the absorption of the Southwest and California.

        As I’ve said, the Roman cavalry borrowed a lot of equine tech from the Gauls. Two examples would be the Celtic “horned” saddle and the Celtic snaffle bit. You can read up on some of that here:

        For an in-depth look, I recommend Hyland’s TRAINING THE ROMAN CAVALRY. Great stuff, with live testing done by experienced riders. It also has a list of Latin cavalry terms in the back. Many are derived from Gaulish.

        Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply