What is the etymology for "Cade" as in motorcade or cavalcade? I guess it has a similar meaning in "cascade" as well.

I checked Etymonline "but it didn't explain the etymology of "cade". Just that "in 20c. -cade came to be regarded as a suffix"

  • 2
    Yes I did do that. but it didn't explain the etymology of "cade". Just that "in 20c. -cade came to be regarded as a suffix"
    – gawpertron
    May 8, 2017 at 13:34
  • cavalcade comes from the past participle of cavalcare in Italian, just like brocade comes from the past tense of broccare. May 8, 2017 at 13:48
  • 2
    @JanusBahsJacquet - I think the real question here is why the Italian pp suffix -ata, ato, is made into English -cade.
    – user66974
    May 8, 2017 at 15:00
  • 4
    Correcting myself: the inherited French word is chevauchée… which is seemingly also a word in English. The d in the Old French form is perhaps due to Provençal influence. Looking a bit closer, there doesn’t seem to be a simple way to get from an Italian /t/ to a French /d/, even in a borrowing—it should either have remained or become /ð/ (which would then later be lost). It was also spelt cavalcate in 15th- and 16th-century French, presumably straight from Italian. May 8, 2017 at 15:25
  • 1
    @Janus: If you look at the etymology for brocade, it went from Italian broccato to Spanish brocado (where it lost the extra c and the t became d) to English brocade. So maybe cavalcade took a side trip through Spanish as well. May 8, 2017 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


Etymonline sources cavalcade as a single word, part of which became a suffix.

cavalcade (n.) 1590s, via Middle French cavalcade (15c.), [...] from Latin caballus (see cavalier). Literally, “a procession on horseback;” in 20c. -cade came to be regarded as a suffix and taken to form motorcade (1913), etc.

Cavalcade is the source of the suffix.

Similar to the way -gate (from Watergate) became a suffix meaning “scandal about” (subject specified by the word to which it is attached), -cade came to mean “a procession of” (subject specified by the word to which it is attached).

There is no standalone traceable meaning to the suffix beyond “it was part of a word that meant something similar” now available to affix in other contexts.

  • 1
    Don’t forget to add links to your sources—I’ve added one in for you here. May 8, 2017 at 14:50
  • 1
    The OED agrees with you here. "-cade, suffix. Taken by a false division of caval)cade n. and used in various Combs., as aquacade, motorcade, etc., in the sense 'a procession, a show'. Chiefly U.S."
    – Muzer
    May 8, 2017 at 15:54
  • Of course, "-ade" has already been abused to death in the English language, so at least "-cade" provides some clarity, even if it is a false division. May 8, 2017 at 16:46
  • So in other words, this is exactly like what has happened with -gate being used to label most political scandals since the incident at the Watergate Hotel.
    – Stuporman
    May 8, 2017 at 17:03
  • 4
    Now I really want a journalist to describe a procession of scandal after scandal as a "gatecade". May 9, 2017 at 2:59

The latin verb ending -icare forms verbs from nouns. So from the (late, vulgar) latin word caballus one get caballicare directly translated that means "to 'horse'", which is how a late latin speaker would say "to ride a horse"

Digging deeper, the ic of icare is from the noun ending i and a suffix that forms adjectives -cus, the -are of -icare is the usual present infinitive verbal ending of latin verbs which end in -o.

In Italian, -icare is still used to form verbs from nouns, for example neve (snow) gives nevicare (to snow).

From here the etymology dictionary gives details. From vulgar Latin caballicare the Italians got cavalcare (by regular sound shifts) which is gives a noun cavalcata. That became cavalcade in French, which was borrowed in English in the late 16th century.

All in all it is a bit of a mishmash. The "c" of cade is a fragment of one latin suffix, and the "ade" is a change pronunciation of the latin verbal ending "-are"

  • Nice. Explains both the caval- and -cade parts.
    – Mitch
    May 8, 2017 at 23:24
  • I thought the noun came from cavalcato/cavalcata, which is the past participle of cavalcare in Italian. So the ade came from a change of verb form, as well as a change of pronunciation. May 9, 2017 at 13:02

-cade is a suffix abstracted from cavalcade:

a combining form extracted from cavalcade, used with the meaning “procession” in the formation of compound words:


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.