chiv·al·ry (shvl-r)
n., pl. chiv·al·ries.
  1. The medieval system, principles, and customs of knighthood.
    1. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.
    2. A manifestation of any of these qualities.
  2. A group of knights or gallant gentlemen.

[Middle English chivalrie, from Old French chevalerie, from chevalier, knight; see chevalier.]
Word History: The Age of Chivalry was also the age of the horse. Bedecked in elaborate armor and other trappings, horses were certainly well dressed although they might have wished for lighter loads. That the horse should be featured so prominently during the Age of Chivalry is etymologically appropriate, because chivalry goes back to the Latin word caballus, “horse, especially a riding horse or packhorse.” Borrowed from French, as were so many other important words having to do with medieval English culture, the English word chivalry is first recorded in works composed around the beginning of the 14th century and is found in several senses, including “a body of armored mounted warriors serving a lord” and “knighthood as a ceremonially conferred rank in the social system.” Our modern sense, “the medieval system of knighthood,” could not exist until the passage of several centuries had allowed the perspective for such a conceptualization, with this sense being recorded first in 1765.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition
Copyright © 1996, 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.