Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A light leap by a horse, in which both hind legs leave the ground just before the forelegs are set down.
  • intransitive v. To leap in a curvet.
  • intransitive v. To prance; frolic.
  • transitive v. To cause to leap in a curvet.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To leap about, frolic.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A particular leap of a horse, when he raises both his fore legs at once, equally advanced, and, as his fore legs are falling, raises his hind legs, so that all his legs are in the air at once.
  • n. A prank; a frolic.
  • intransitive v. To make a curvet; to leap; to bound.
  • intransitive v. To leap and frisk; to frolic.
  • transitive v. To cause to curvet.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In the manège, a leap of a horse in which both the fore legs are raised at once and equally advanced, the haunches lowered, and the hind legs brought forward, the horse springing as the fore legs are falling, so that all his legs are in the air at once.
  • n. Figuratively, a prank; a frolic.
  • To leap in a curvet; prance.
  • To leap and frisk.
  • To cause to make a curvet; cause to make an upward spring.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. perform a leap where both hind legs come off the ground, of a horse
  • n. a light leap by a horse in which both hind legs leave the ground before the forelegs come down

Etymologies

Italian corvetta, from Old Italian, from Old French courbette, from courber, to curve, from Latin curvāre, from curvus, curved; see sker-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian corvetta, diminutive of corva, an early form of curva ‘curve’, from Latin curva feminine of curvus ‘bent, curved’. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I can see my husband riding the margins of the field, talking to his land steward, and I kick Arthur into a rolling canter and come up to him in a rush that makes his own horse sidle and curvet in the mud.

    The Red Queen

  • Theogine's horse in Heliodorus [4846] curvet, prance, and go so proudly, exultans alacriter et superbiens, &c., but that such as mine author supposeth, he was in love with his master? dixisses ipsum equum pulchrum intelligere pulchram domini fomam?

    Anatomy of Melancholy

  • But gaining in speed; and gaining on him, slicing toward him in a wide curvet like hounds let loose on the side of a meadow, and he the fox already moving broadly down its middle.

    Son of a Witch

  • The others laughed, one pulled hard on the reins, making his broad-shouldered mount snort and curvet.

    The Lioness

  • English ideas the _pollo_ is more objectionable there than elsewhere, since his idea of riding is to show off the antics of a horse specially taught and made to prance about and curvet while he sits it, his legs sticking out in the position of the Colossus of Rhodes, his heels, armed with spurs, threatening catastrophe to the other riders.

    Spanish Life in Town and Country

  • The pad began to curvet as the post horses rattled behind, and the Parson had only an indistinct vision of a human face supplanting these human legs.

    The International Monthly, Volume 3, No. 1, April, 1851

  • Protestants: Horse-coursers jades will bound, curvet and shew more tricks, then a horse well mettled for the rode or cart.

    A Coal From The Altar, To Kindle The Holy Fire of Zeale In a Sermon Preached at a Generall Visitation at Ipswich

  • To see thee curvet, and mount like a dog in a blanket,

    The Mirror of Taste, and Dramatic Censor, Vol. I, No. 4, April 1810

  • At least I imagined so this morning, with our craft "upon a wind," whilst standing in the weather gangway, and watching her plunge and curvet, held up to her course by the helm, as a steed by a curb, obeying its rider; but I did not think the motion as agreeable as that derived from equestrian exercise.

    Kathay: A Cruise in the China Seas

  • The girls came out of the cottage doors to look at him, as he made the fiery little beast curvet and prance along the road; and he was evidently not insensible to the looks of admiration of these young ladies, as they muffled up their faces in their blue rebozos and looked at him through the narrow opening.

    Anahuac : or, Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern

Comments

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  • Down on the maidan flights of small, low-flying brown doves chased one another to and fro, and bee-eaters, emerald-green, curvetted like slow swallows.

    - George Orwell, Burmese Days

    September 19, 2008

  • Citation on skittishly.

    July 26, 2008