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ca·dre (kädrā, kädrə)
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n.
1. A nucleus of trained personnel around which a larger organization can be built and trained: a cadre of corporals who train recruits.
2.
a. A tightly knit group of zealots who are active in advancing the interests of a revolutionary party.
b. A member of such a group.

[French, from Italian quadro, frame, from Latin quadrum, a square; see kwetwer- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Usage Note: Cadre was borrowed in the 1800s from French, where it had originally meant “frame” but had come to refer also to a group of commanding officers, civil servants, or managers. French speakers will recognize that the source word's final e has no accent and thus is not pronounced with an (ā) sound. The (kädrā) pronunciation is an American invention that arose as a mistake, probably because its foreign or European origin remained vaguely in people's awareness without a clear understanding of the French source word. In this situation, when a word is thought to be a foreign borrowing, people often follow established patterns of pronunciation in borrowed words, and for cadre, Spanish padre presents a familiar model. The pronunciation of cadre ending in (ā) may also have been made more likely by the tendency of English speakers to drop accent marks when spelling French borrowings, such as protege or cliche, while retaining the final vowel sound. In any case, the pronunciation of cadre with a final (ā) predominates in the United States. In our 2016 survey, 79 percent of the Usage Panel said they pronounced the word this way, while 21 percent said they used (kädrə). Very small minorities of 2 percent each pronounced it as (kădrē) or (kädər), but both of these pronunciations were deemed unacceptable by a large majority of the Panel.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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