- a mounted soldier serving under a feudal superior in the Middle Ages.
- (in Europe in the Middle Ages) a man, usually of noble birth, who after an apprenticeship as page and squire was raised to honorable military rank and bound to chivalrous conduct.
- any person of a rank similar to that of the medieval knight.
- a man upon whom the nonhereditary dignity of knighthood is conferred by a sovereign because of personal merit or for services rendered to the country. In Great Britain he holds the rank next below that of a baronet, and the title Sir is prefixed to the Christian name, as in Sir John Smith.
- a member of any order or association that designates its members as knights.
- Chess. a piece shaped like a horse’s head, moved one square vertically and then two squares horizontally or one square horizontally and two squares vertically.
- a short vertical timber having on its head a sheave through which running rigging is rove.
- any other fitting or erection bearing such a sheave.
verb (used with object)
- to dub or make (a man) a knight.
- a comedy (424 b.c.) by Aristophanes.
- Dame Laura. 1887–1970, British painter, noted for her paintings of Gypsies, the ballet, and the circus
- (in medieval Europe)
- (originally) a person who served his lord as a mounted and heavily armed soldier
- (later) a gentleman invested by a king or other lord with the military and social standing of this rank
- (in modern times) a person invested by a sovereign with a nonhereditary rank and dignity usually in recognition of personal services, achievements, etc. A British knight bears the title Sir placed before his name, as in Sir Winston Churchill
- a chess piece, usually shaped like a horse’s head, that moves either two squares horizontally and one square vertically or one square horizontally and two squares vertically
- a heroic champion of a lady or of a cause or principle
- a member of the Roman class of the equites
- (tr) to make (a person) a knight; dub
Old English cniht “boy, youth; servant, attendant,” common West Germanic (cf. Old Frisian kniucht, Dutch knecht, Middle High German kneht “boy, youth, lad,” German Knecht “servant, bondman, vassal”), of unknown origin. The plural in Middle English sometimes was knighten. Meaning “military follower of a king or other superior” is from c.1100. Began to be used in a specific military sense in Hundred Years War, and gradually rose in importance until it became a rank in the nobility 16c. The chess piece so called from mid-15c. Knight in shining armor in figurative sense is from 1917, from the man who rescues the damsel in distress in romantic dramas (perhaps especially “Lohengrin”). Knights of Columbus, society of Catholic men, founded 1882 in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.; Knights of Labor, trade union association, founded in Philadelphia, 1869; Knights of Pythias, secret order, founded in Washington, 1864.
“to make a knight of (someone),” early 13c., from knight (n.). Related: Knighted; knighting.