General English



  • noun a schoolboy or girl who is a member of an official organization, which is designed to give young people a taste of life in the armed forces

Origin & History of “cadet”

Etymologically, a cadet is a ‘little head’. Its original meaning in English was ‘younger son or brother’, and it came from French cadet, an alteration of a Gascon dialect term capdet ‘chief’. this in turn derived from vulgar Latin *capitellus ‘little head’, a diminutive form of Latin caput ‘head’ (from which English also gets captain and chief). The reason for its apparently rather strange change in meaning from ‘chief’ to ‘younger son’ seems to be that the younger sons of Gascon families were in former times sent to the French court to fulfil the role of officers.

When English borrowed French cadet, it did so not only in a form that retained the original spelling, but also as caddie or cadee, which originally meant ‘young officer’. The Scottish version, caddie, gradually developed in meaning over the centuries through ‘person who runs errands’ to, in the 19th century, ‘golfer’s assistant’. Cad, originally ‘unskilled assistant’ (18th c.), is an abbreviation of caddie or cadee.