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1840, "exaggerated, blind patriotism," from French chauvinisme (1839), from the character Nicholas Chauvin, soldier of Napoleon's Grand Armee, notoriously attached to the Empire long after it was history, in the Cogniards' popular 1831 vaudeville "La Cocarde Tricolore."
Meaning extended to "sexism" via male chauvinism (1969). The name is a French form of Latin Calvinus and thus Calvinism and chauvinism are, etymologically, twins. The name was a common one in Napoleon's army, and if there was a real person at the base of the character in the play, he has not been certainly identified by etymologists, though memoirs of Waterloo (one published in Paris in 1822) mention "one of our principal piqueurs, named Chauvin, who had returned with Napoleon from Elba," which implies loyalty.
excessive and unreasonable patriotism, similar to jingoism. The word is derived from the name of Nicolas Chauvin, a French soldier who, satisfied with the reward of military honours and a small pension, retained a simpleminded devotion to Napoleon. Chauvin came to typify the cult of the glorification of all things military that was popular after 1815 among the veterans of Napoleon's armies. Later, chauvinism came to mean any kind of ultranationalism and was used generally to connote an undue partiality or attachment to a group or place to which one belongs. The term chauvinism also may describe an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex, as in male chauvinism. Some animal-rights advocates have used the term to indicate a similar attitude on the part of human beings toward other species, as in "species chauvinism."