adjective, char·i·er, char·i·est.

cautious or careful; wary: He was chary of investing in oil wells.
shy; timid.
fastidious; choosy: She is excessively chary about her friends.
sparing (often followed by of): chary of his praise.

Origin of chary

before 1000; Middle English; Old English cearig sorrowful (c(e)ar(u) care + -ig -y1); cognate with Old Saxon karag, Old High German karag (German karg scanty, paltry)
Related formschar·i·ly, adverbun·char·y, adjective

Synonyms for chary

Antonyms for chary Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for chary

Contemporary Examples of chary

  • As a rule, I am chary about doling out diagnoses unless there is a clear indication to do so.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Daydreaming Is Not a Disorder

    Russell Saunders

    October 4, 2014

Historical Examples of chary

  • Let us ascertain, if we can, what it means, since they are so chary of informing us themselves.

  • The maestro was an old man and chary of his words; yet even he was stirred to enthusiasm.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • Besides, since when have actresses become so chary of their favors?

    The Strollers

    Frederic S. Isham

  • "It was a pleasure he was chary enough of to himself," said she, laughing.

  • He realized that, had it not been for her, the Camerons would have been chary of taking him aboard.

British Dictionary definitions for chary


adjective charier or chariest

wary; careful
choosy; finicky
sparing; mean

Word Origin for chary

Old English cearig; related to caru care, Old High German charag sorrowful
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for chary

Old English cearig "sorrowful" (see care (n.)). Sense evolved 16c. from "full of care" to "careful." Cognate with Old Saxon carag, Old High German charag "sorrow, trouble, care." Related: Charily; chariness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper