The word "cabrio" is the short form of the word "cabriolet." The word is of French origin and historically referred to a light one-horse carriage with a folding leather hood. Nowadays, the term is most often used to refer to any convertible car with a folding hood. Knowing this word is beneficial if you are interested in car mechanics, are studying French language or history or are interested in the history of the English language. For historical reasons, a high percentage of English words have a French origin.

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The definition of "cabrio" is the same as that of "cabriolet," with both words referring to a convertible car with a folding hood.

"Cabrio" and "Cabriolet" Meaning

The word "cabrio" is a short form of the word "cabriolet." The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "cabriolet" as follows:

  1. A light two-wheeled, one-horse carriage with a folding leather hood, a large rigid shield in front of the seat and upward-curving shafts

  2. A convertible coupe

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The French word "cabriolet" dates back to the 18th century. The term is related to both the word "cabriole," which means "goat's leap," and "cabrioler," which means "to leap in the air." The original horse-drawn vehicle, which was named the "cabriolet," was given its name based on the way the light carriage moved through the air as it drove.

The French word "cabriolet" is derived from the Latin word “capreolus,” which is a diminutive form of “caper,” meaning "goat." It is also related to the modern English word “caper,” which means “skip or dance about in a lively or playful way.”

Using the Word "Cabrio"

The word "cabrio" is a noun, so it can act as a subject or as an object in a sentence the same way you would use the terms "convertible car" or "carriage." For example, you might say, "A red cabrio was parked across from our house." As a noun, the word “cabrio” may also be used as an object of the sentence, for instance, "Ken just bought a red cabrio for his birthday.” It can also be an object of a preposition, for instance, "Every day she drove home from work in her red cabrio."

If you are studying French history, you may come across the word "cabriolet" in the following context: "The cabriolet was first used in 18th century France as a rental vehicle."

Other French Loanwords in English

If you were surprised that "cabrio" and "cabriolet" have a French origin, you shouldn’t be. The English language is a product of one culture clash after another, so its modern vocabulary is an amalgamation of vocabularies from the cultures that influenced it. The French language had undoubtedly the most influence on the development of English. French loanwords actually compose about 30 percent of the English vocabulary. The biggest culprit of this influence is, of course, the Norman Conquest. In 1066 A.D., William the Conqueror, formerly duke of Normandy, invaded the British Isles and became the King of England. After that, French remained the official language and the language of the aristocracy in England for about 400 years.

Two other historical events that occurred some centuries later brought more French language and more French influence to the British Isles. In the 16th and 17th century, the Protestant Huguenots came to England fleeing persecution in France. Then finally in the 18th century during the French Revolution, many French aristocrats escaped to England, bringing with them again much of the French vocabulary including, quite possibly, the word “cabriolet.”

About the Author

Tanya Mozias Slavin is a former academic and language teacher. She writes articles about education and linguistic technology, and has published in the Washington Post, Fast Company, CBC and other places. Find her at www.tanyamoziasslavin.com