A cheval: by horse; on horseback.

In mountaineering, à cheval is a climbing method.  The climber straddles the ridge, placing hands on the crest of the ridge.

 From the French phrase à cheval (on horseback).  The French phrase derives from the Latin caballus (horse, packhorse).

In Latin, the “classical” word for horse is equus.  From equus, English derives:

  • equestrian
  • equine
  • and equerry.

The Vulgar, or Late Latin word for horse was caballus

In classical times, a caballus was a packhorse, or even, a nag.  The caballus was not the beautiful show horse, or the glorified cavalry horse.  By the decline of the Empire, caballus was the general word for horse.  Caballus is the source for many modern Romance words for horse:

  • French – cheval
  • Spanish – caballo
  • Italian – cavallo
  • Portuguese – cavalo
  • and, Romanian – cal

From caballus, English derives

  • cavalier: disdainful (likely based on the overconfident attitudes of cavalry officers in the past)
  • cavalcade: a procession on horseback
  • cavalry: soldiers on horseback
  • and chivalry: a medieval honor code for knights.


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