A medieval mounted knight in armour

A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political leader for service to the monarch or a Christian Church, especially in a military capacity.[1][2] Historically, in Europe, knighthood was conferred upon mounted warriors.[3] During the High Middle Ages, knighthood was considered a class of lower nobility. By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior. Often, a knight was a vassal who served as a fighter for a lord, with payment in the form of land holdings.[4] The lords trusted the knights, who were skilled in battle on horseback.

Knighthood in the Middle Ages was closely linked with horsemanship (and especially the joust) from its origins in the 12th century until its final flowering as a fashion among the high nobility in the Duchy of Burgundy in the 15th century. This linkage is reflected in the etymology of chivalry, cavalier and related terms (see Etymology section below). The special prestige accorded to mounted warriors in Christendom finds a parallel in the furusiyya in the Muslim world, and the Greek hippeus (ἱππεύς) and Roman eques of classical antiquity.[5]

In the late medieval period, new methods of warfare began to render classical knights in armour obsolete, but the titles remained in many nations. Today, a number of orders of knighthood continue to exist in Christian Churches, as well as in several historically Christian countries and their former territories, such as the Roman Catholic Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Protestant Order of Saint John, as well as the English Order of the Garter, the Swedish Royal Order of the Seraphim, and the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. Each of these orders has its own criteria for eligibility, but knighthood is generally granted by a head of state, monarch, or prelate to selected persons to recognise some meritorious achievement, as in the British honours system, often for service to the Church or country. The modern female equivalent in the United Kingdom is Dame.

Historically, the ideals of chivalry were popularized in medieval literature, particularly the literary cycles known as the Matter of France, relating to the legendary companions of Charlemagne, and the Matter of Britain, relating to the legend of King Arthur.


The word knight, from Old English cniht ("boy" or "servant"),[6] is a cognate of the German word Knecht ("servant, bondsman").[7] This meaning, of unknown origin, is common among West Germanic languages (cf Old Frisian kniucht, Dutch knecht, Danish knægt, Swedish knekt, Norwegian knekt, Middle High German kneht, all meaning "boy, youth, lad", as well as German Knecht "servant, bondsman, vassal").[6] Middle High German had the phrase guoter kneht, which also meant knight; but this meaning was in decline by about 1200.[8]

The meaning of cniht changed over time from its original meaning of "boy" to "household retainer". Ælfric's homily of St. Swithun describes a mounted retainer as a cniht. While cnihtas might have fought alongside their lords, their role as household servants features more prominently in the Anglo-Saxon texts. In several Anglo-Saxon wills cnihtas are left either money or lands. In his will, King Æthelstan leaves his cniht, Aelfmar, eight hides of land.[9]

A rādcniht, "riding-servant", was a servant delivering messages or patrolling coastlines on horseback.[citation needed]

A narrowing of the generic meaning "servant" to "military follower of a king or other superior" is visible by 1100. The specific military sense of a knight as a mounted warrior in the heavy cavalry emerges only in the Hundred Years' War. The verb "to knight" (to make someone a knight) appears around 1300; and, from the same time, the word "knighthood" shifted from "adolescence" to "rank or dignity of a knight".

An Equestrian (Latin, from eques "horseman", from equus "horse")[10] was a member of the second highest social class in the Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. This class is often translated as "knight"; the medieval knight, however, was called miles in Latin (which in classical Latin meant "soldier", normally infantry).[11][12][13]

In the later Roman Empire, the classical Latin word for horse, equus, was replaced in common parlance by the vulgar Latin caballus, sometimes thought to derive from Gaulish caballos.[14] From caballus arose terms in the various Romance languages cognate with the (French-derived) English cavalier: Italian cavaliere, Spanish caballero, French chevalier (whence chivalry), Portuguese cavaleiro, and Romanian cavaler.[15] The Germanic languages have terms cognate with the English rider: German Ritter, and Dutch and Scandinavian ridder. These words are derived from Germanic rīdan, "to ride", in turn derived from the Proto-Indo-European root reidh-.[16]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Ridder
Alemannisch: Ritter
العربية: فارس (وسام)
asturianu: Caballeru
azərbaycanca: Cəngavər
বাংলা: নাইট
беларуская: Рыцар
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Рыцар
български: Рицар
bosanski: Vitez (vojnik)
brezhoneg: Marc'heg (den)
català: Cavaller
Cebuano: Kabalyero
čeština: Rytíř
Cymraeg: Marchog
dansk: Ridder
Deutsch: Ritter
eesti: Rüütel
Ελληνικά: Ιππότης
español: Caballero
Esperanto: Kavaliro
euskara: Zaldun
فارسی: شوالیه
Frysk: Ridder
Gaeilge: Ridire
Gaelg: Reejerey
galego: Cabaleiro
한국어: 기사 (군사)
Հայերեն: Ասպետ
hrvatski: Vitez (naslov)
Bahasa Indonesia: Knight
íslenska: Riddari
עברית: אביר
kurdî: Şovalye
latviešu: Bruņinieks
lietuvių: Riteris
magyar: Lovag
македонски: Витез
Bahasa Melayu: Kesateria
Nederlands: Ridder (ruiter)
日本語: 騎士
norsk: Ridder
norsk nynorsk: Riddar
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Ritsarlar
Plattdüütsch: Ridder
português: Cavaleiro
română: Cavaler
русский: Рыцарь
Scots: Knicht
shqip: Kalorësi
Simple English: Knight
slovenčina: Rytier (stredovek)
slovenščina: Vitez
српски / srpski: Витез
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Vitez
suomi: Ritari
svenska: Riddare
Tagalog: Kabalyero
татарча/tatarça: Рыцарь
Türkçe: Şövalye
українська: Лицар
اردو: شہہ سوار
Tiếng Việt: Hiệp sĩ
中文: 骑士
ГӀалгӀай: Рыцарь