"Calvary" vs. "Cavalry": A Look at the Different Meanings

, Staff Writer
Updated November 5, 2021
Calvary - Jesus On The Cross vs Cavalry - Battlefield
    Calvary - Jesus On The Cross vs Cavalry - Battlefield
    Jesus: rudall30 / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Battlefield: Route55 / iStock / Getty Images Plus
    Used under Getty Images license

Mixing up just one letter can change the entire meaning of these two words.

  • Calvary/calvary - hill outside Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified; an artistic representation of the crucifixion; experience of mental anguish

  • cavalry - historical soldiers who fought on horseback; modern regiment who fight in armored vehicles or aircraft; an emergency rescue group

The Origins and Meanings of "Calvary"

Calvary is a noun or proper noun that has a couple of notable meanings.

Using "Calvary" as a Place

In its proper noun meaning, Calvary was the place immediately outside the walls of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified, also called Golgotha in Hebrew.

  • Jesus died on the cross at Calvary.

  • Our church is called Calvary after the place where Jesus was crucified.

  • We made a pilgrimage to Calvary in Jerusalem.

Using "Calvary" as a Depiction

Calvary also refers to the artistic representation of the place Calvary and the events that occurred there in the Bible.

  • The Christmas play featured a depiction of Calvary.

  • The painting depicting Jesus on the cross was titled Calvary.

  • She decided to sculpt her vision of Calvary for the art show.

Using "Calvary" as a State of Being

Additionally, calvary can refer to spiritual and psychological anguish and trial. Since it is not a proper noun that refers to a place or depiction of a place, it is not capitalized.

  • The prisoner experienced calvary.

  • They endured a calvary of hardships.

  • The trip was a calvary for everyone involved.

Meanings and Uses of "Cavalry"

Cavalry has a strictly military meaning, and its origins lie in its name.

The word cavalry comes from the French cheval which means “horse.” In the past, soldiers who rode and fought on horseback formed a cavalry.

While horses are not widely used nowadays, the military still has cavalries. Now, however, they have traded horses for armored vehicles and aircraft.

A cavalry is also a group sent out in times of emergency or for rescue missions.

  • The light cavalry led the charge.

  • He served in the U.S. cavalry.

  • They sent the cavalry to rescue the missing troops.


Tips to Remember the Difference

To remember the difference between cavalry and calvary and whether to put the "l" or the "v" first, remember the origins of the words.

  • One derivative of cavalry is cavalier, which means someone trained in horsemanship or a mounted soldier.
    • Both words begin with cav-, which can help you remember it.
  • You can also associate cavalry with valiant soldiers because both include val.
  • Additionally, you can remember calvary by recalling other Christian terms such as Calvinism.

Spelling Matters

The spelling of words matters and so do the meanings. By remembering the meanings of calvary and cavalry, you can also remember the spellings.

Review some similarly confused words where the order of letters makes all the difference such as break and brake. Then, explore other words of French origin like fiancé and fiancée or bougie and boujee.