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Cavalry vs. Calvary

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

As with so many other similar sounding English words, calvary vs. cavalry often get mixed up in people’s writing. While they aren’t a true set of homophones, they still sound similar enough to confuse people. Each word also contains the same seven letters, just in different orders, which adds to the confusion. That said, their meanings are wholly unrelated, and, in order to avoid any embarrassing mistakes in your writing, it’s important to use the correct word.

In this post, I want to discuss the differences between these two words. I will go over their definitions, their functions in a sentence, and their pronunciations. Plus, I will give you a tip to remember the difference between them at the end.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever struggle answering the question, “Should I use calvary or cavalry?”


The word cavalry originated in mid-16th century: from French cavallerie, from Italian cavalleria, from cavallo ‘horse’, from Latin caballus.

Cavalry as noun:

Cavalry is used as a noun in English language where it means soldiers who fought on horseback in the past.

The cavalry charged up the hill.

In modern era, cavalry describes the modern soldiers who fight in armoured vehicles.

A cavalry regiment resigned.

Calvary as noun:

Calvary (pronounced kal-va-ree)is used as a proper noun to refer to the hillside outside of ancient Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.

In John’s Gospel, Mary is only mentioned twice, at Cana and at Calvary.

A Calvary can also refer to a sculpted depiction of the crucifixion; this usage is sometimes capitalized and sometimes not.

Calvary can be used figuratively to refer to an experience of intense suffering; an ordeal. This use clearly comes again from the crucifixion of Jesus but is not capitalized, as the proper noun would be.


Nieve couldn’t imagine the calvary he was about to go through. [Cycling News]

The last time the British Army used horses in a cavalry charge was in the Second World War. [The Sun]

Within the pillar is a treasury in which is kept what is claimed to be the cloth with which a woman named Veronica wiped the face of Jesus on His way to Calvary. [The Record]

If you want to see the military do what it does best, then ride out on a mission with an armored cavalry squadron. [National Review Online]

The French enjoyed a clear advantage in artillery and in cavalry, Mr. Muir observes, but were less impressive in line infantry. [The Wall Street Journal]

It sends a very strong message to citizens that when they see soldiers coming in Humvees, the cavalry has arrived. [The Washington Post]

Cavalry or Calvary:

As we said above, cavalry vs. Calvary are commonly confused with each other. The most common mistake is when people mean to use cavalry but they use Calvary instead.In the Biblical New Testament, Calvary is the hill where Jesus was crucified. In modern usage, the word’s other definitions are (1) an artistic representation of Christ’s crucifixion, and (2) an ordeal involving great suffering. Cavalry is completely different. It refers to (1) the part of an army that fights on horseback, and (2) a highly mobile modern army unit. Because the only thing separating these two nouns is the placement of the l, they are easily confused. You can remember this as a cavalry is a group of valiant solider. The cavalry is valiant, both of which have the letters “VAL” in them. If you’re writing about soldiers and you don’t see a “VAL,” then you’re using Calvary, which is a proper noun and the wrong word choice.


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