Old English cearig "sorrowful, full of care," the adjective from care (n.), q.v. The sense evolved 16c. from "full of care" to "careful." Compare the sense evolution of careful. The meaning "sparing, frugal" is from 1560s. Cognate with Old Saxon carag, Old High German charag "full of sorrow, trouble, or care." Related: Charily; chariness.
updated on November 26, 2022