General English

Cars & Driving

  • noun a mobile home especially for recreational purposes, for towing behind a car or commercial vehicle, usually with two wheels


  • noun a van with beds, table, washing facilities, etc., which can be towed by a car
  • noun a group of vehicles or animals travelling together, especially across a desert

Origin & History of “caravan”

Caravans have no etymological connection with cars, nor with char-a-bancs. The word comes ultimately from Persian kārwān ‘group of desert travellers’, and came into English via French caravane. Its use in English for ‘vehicle’ dates from the 17th century, but to begin with it referred to a covered cart for carrying passengers and goods (basis of the shortened form van (19th c.)), and in the 19th century it was used for the basic type of third-class railway carriage; its modern sense of ‘mobile home’ did not develop until the late 19th century. Caravanserai ‘inn for accommodating desert caravans’ (16th c.) comes from Persian kārwānserāī: serāī means ‘palace, inn’, and was the source, via Italian, of seraglio ‘harem’ (16th c.).