cad / caddie / cadet

Believe it or not, these three words all come from a common root. One might suspect a relationship because of the root cad-, but the meanings are so very different that the relationship is not immediately apparent.

The oldest of the three is cadet. It is from the French cadet, which in turn comes from the Provencal capdet and ultimately from a diminutive for the Latin caput, or head. So a cadet is literally a little chief. The original English sense is that of a second son of nobility, one not in line for inheriting the title. From Philemon Holland’s 1610 translation of Camden’s Britain:

From a younger brother or cadet of this house.

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