Calvary vs. Cavalry – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 10, 2017/ Uncategorized

calvary versus cavalry

What’s the Difference Between Calvary and Cavalry?

Calvary and cavalry are two words that sound almost—but not exactly—alike. The internal letters of each word are different, but they look enough alike that they confuse writers.

Calvary is a noun that relates to the crucifixion of Jesus, an important religious figure in Christian religions.

  • Jesus died on the cross at Calvary.

Cavalry is a noun that means the part of the military that is on horseback.

  • It looked like they would lose the battle until the cavalry arrived to save the day.

Let’s look at the usage of these two words.

Using Calvary in a Sentence

When to use calvary: Calvary refers to the crucifixion of the important religious figure Jesus. It can mean the place where he died, an open-air depiction of his crucifixion, or an experience of extreme difficulty and suffering.

For example,

  • Many Christians on religious tours wish to see Calvary, the site of Jesus’s crucifixion.
  • The priest knelt before the calvary to pray.

Calvary most often appears in the names of churches, cemetaries, or in religious texts pertaining to the crucifixion. A synonym for the name of the hill where Jesus died is Golgotha.

Since Calvary is a proper noun—it refers to a specific place—it should always be capitalized.

Using Cavalry in a Sentence

When to use cavalry: Cavalry means the part of a military on horseback. Nowadays cavalry can also refer to tanks or aircrafts as armored cavalry or air cavalry.

For example,

  • Most people know that cavalries existed in ancient wars, but many people don’t know that there were cavalries serving in World War II.
  • In the past, chariots were an important part of the cavalry.

There are a couple of idioms that use cavalry:

  • here comes the cavalry: someone with the power to fix a problem is arriving (people often use this sarcastically)
    • The mailman is coming up to our mailbox, and as normal here comes the cavalry! The dogs always think that they are saving our lives by barking at the mailman.
  • call in the cavalry: call in someone or something that will solve a problem
    • The student didn’t think she could get her teacher to change her bad grade to a good grade all on her own, so she called in the cavalry. She got her parents to do make the request for her.

Historically, the cavalry was the most mobile part of an army. Advantages of fighting on horseback included moving faster and having a height advantage over those on the ground.

Remembering Calvary vs. Cavalry

One way to help you remember the difference between these two words is to use their spelling.

Calvary starts with the letters cal. In the Bible’s depiction of the crucifixion, Jesus called out to his father, God. He also remained relatively calm. Both call and calm begin with cal as well. Also, the act of hanging a person on a cross is quite callous, another word that begins with cal.

Cavalry begins with cav. The cavalry involves horses, and horses often cavort together. Cavort also begins with cav and it means to jump or dance around in excitement.

One final method to help you remember these differences is to consider the Latin root of cavalry. Cavalry comes from the Latin caballus. In some Latin based languages, such as Spanish, the b and v sound are indistinguishable. Therefore, the modern English word cavalry is not too different than the Latin word for horse.

Outside Examples

  • The Calvary Chapel Christian School confirmed Wednesday that Bliss had not only been named the school’s basketball coach, but also its athletic director, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, as the school seemingly turned a blind eye to Bliss’ heavy baggage. –New York Post
  • “I’m a rebel for a cause for Christ. Our focus is not on politics,” David Mitchell, senior pastor of Calvary Church, says. He has ridden his Harley motorcycle down the aisle during Sunday service at the Santa Ana church. –OC Register
  • The U.S. Defense Department says Seadore was a member of the 1st Cavalry Division when his unit was attacked on Dec. 14, 1950, in South Korea. After the battle he was reported absent without leave, then missing in action and, finally, a prisoner of war. –Houston Chronicle
  • Macron arrived standing in a military jeep and surrounded by cavalry – repeating a scene from his inauguration two months ago aimed at reinforcing a message that he heads an important military power. –New York Daily News

Quiz: Calvary vs. Cavalry

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either cavalry or Calvary in the correct form.

  1. The ______________ units of the military could move much faster than the soldiers on foot.
  2. _______________ is near Jerusalem and many other holy sites.
  3. It important to train the horses properly for their role in the _______________.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use Calvary or cavalry? These words look alike at first glance, but they have completely unrelated meanings. Therefore, you can never interchange them.

  • Calvary has a religious meaning tied to the crucifixion of the Christian religious figure Jesus.
  • Cavalry has a military meaning related to soldiers mounted on horses.

Don’t let the similar spellings and pronunciations of these two words confuse you into using one when you mean to use the other.


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