|Frolicking? Capering? Gamboling? Or just down and dirty cavorting? You decide.|
(photo by Steven Worster)
Verb intransitive. Colloquial (originally US). Late 18th century.
[Perhaps alteration of CURVET noun.]
Prance, caper about.
Noun & verb. Late 16th century.
[Italian corvetta diminutive of corva, early form of curva curve, from Latin curva feminine of curvus bent, curved.]
A noun A horse's leaping or frisking motion; specifically = COURBETTE. L16
B verb intrans. Inflected -t(t)-. (Of a horse or rider) perform a curvet; generally leap (about), frisk. L16
Noun. Mid-17th century.
[French from Italian corvetta.]
A leap in haute école in which a trained horse rears up and jumps
forward on the hind legs without the forelegs touching the ground.
When I was little, I read about a king that reprimanded his son for "cavorting" with a peasant girl. I asked my father what cavort means, and he gave a definition very similar to that of the OED: "Well ... uh ... it's kind of ... to play around with ... to jump about ...yes, that'll do." Now, I'm not one to needlessly question the wisdom of the OED or my father but, while a certain level of "jumping about" may have been involved, I do suspect there was a little more to this prince's cavortings than either lets on here. And other dictionaries agree.
Oxford Dictionaries, for example, gives an alternative definition of "to engage enthusiastically in sexual or disreputable pursuits," and Merriam-Webster offers "to spend time in an enjoyable and often wild and improper way". It is exactly this sense, I do believe, that my age-inappropriate history book was using when describing the antics of this scallywag prince, a sense that neither my father nor (it seems) the OED are that keen on explaining.
I've included cavort's related word curvet and courbette as they do paint a lovely picture of how this word likely came to be - that of a lively horse leaping and frolicking about its paddock. And, yes, if you'd like some variety, there are a number of synonyms for cavort, such as romp, jig, gambol, prance, rollick, frolic and lark. What's so wonderful about cavort, however, and what stands it separate from the rest, is that there is a definite illicit flavour to it - cavorting is just a little bit naughty, a little bit risqué, and a little bit vexing to kingly fathers.
What does the word cavort bring to your mind?
As I can't remember, do you have any idea who this beleaguered king might have been?
Do please leave your most capering comments in the box below.