Definition of knight in English:



  • 1(in the Middle Ages) a man who served his sovereign or lord as a mounted soldier in armour.

    • ‘When they rode past their king, knights raised their visors to identify themselves.’
    • ‘The land taken - and taken is the word - by the Anglo-Normans, was divided up in the usual way and given to their knights, as reward for military service.’
    • ‘Usually, a minor knight might hold a few acres from a baron, who in turn held the land from a count or earl, who in turn held large tracts of the king.’
    • ‘By November, Godfrey could command only about three hundred knights and a few thousand foot soldiers.’
    • ‘Heraldry originated in medieval warfare and tournaments when it was necessary to identify knights who were completely covered in armour.’
    • ‘Few castles can boast the historic pedigree of Cathcart, which dates back to the days of Sir Alan Cathcart, a knight who served with Robert the Bruce.’
    • ‘The feudal system meant that knights had to provide the king with soldiers when the king demanded them.’
    • ‘At Crécy they decisively repulsed a mounted charge by French knights.’
    • ‘The military orders, and the knights under King John put up a valiant defense and saved what they could of the army.’
    • ‘The count of that land, Theobald, hosted a grand event that was attended by knights from all over northern France.’
    • ‘The barons mobilized every man they could and put six hundred knights into the field.’
    • ‘The primary service was military duty as a mounted knight.’
    • ‘The Earl of Salisbury and almost all of the English knights were killed.’
    • ‘In times past, teenagers could lead armies in battle and young pages could be made knights as early as age 12.’
    • ‘This was true of knights, nobles and princes - all ranks of the feudal aristocracy produced younger sons prepared to maintain rank through military force.’
    • ‘In 1118 he invaded Egypt, with a tiny army of only 216 knights and 400 foot soldiers.’
    • ‘The Order of the Knights Templar was formed during the crusades when many knights and squires set out for the Holy Land.’
    • ‘The crossbow was really the first hand-held weapon that could be used by an untrained soldier to injure or kill a knight in plate armour.’
    • ‘Pages helped arm and maintain the knights of medieval Europe, while drummer boys were a requisite part of any 18th century army.’
    • ‘These were made up of ‘feudal’ levies, in which the knight owed service to his lord in return for land.’
    chevalier, cavalier, cavalryman, horseman, equestrian
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    1. 1.1 (in the Middle Ages) a man raised by a sovereign to honourable military rank after service as a page and squire.
      • ‘In return for this, William generously made the great English earl a Norman knight.’
      • ‘England's wars, waged successfully by humble bowmen as well as knights and noblemen, created among all ranks a self-confidence that warmed English hearts.’
      • ‘This permanent body of knights, squires and other laymen was now more often centred on the chamber, the more private space around the ruler, rather than the large communal hall.’
    2. 1.2historical A gentleman representing a shire or county in Parliament.
      • ‘Cumberland, like the other counties, sent two knights of the shire to Parliament.’
      • ‘In the 13th cent., however, this became the responsibility of each sheriff and two knights of the shire.’
      • ‘The sort of men who got themselves chosen to be knights of the shire in the late thirteenth century were exactly the sort of men who always had attended the great political assemblies.’
      • ‘He was knight of the shire for Kent in 1386 and probably lived in Kent for most of the rest of his life.’
    3. 1.3literary A man devoted to the service of a woman or a cause.
      ‘in all your quarrels I will be your knight’
      • ‘In one of Chaucer's earliest poems, The Book of the Duchess, a knight is overheard in the forest lamenting the death of his lady.’
      • ‘He would become her knight and devote himself to her service, though his passion for her would rarely be consummated.’
      • ‘He was offering himself as my protector, my knight, and it moved me deeply.’
      • ‘In other words, the colors red and white seem to represent the knight and his female beloved, respectively.’
    4. 1.4 (in ancient Rome) a member of the class of equites.
      • ‘The knight or Miles was the lowest of the military elite, a well equipped and well trained fighting man similar to the Saxon thegn or huscarl.’
    5. 1.5 (in ancient Greece) a citizen of the second class in Athens, called hippeus in Greek.
  • 2(in the UK) a man awarded a non-hereditary title by the sovereign in recognition of merit or service and entitled to use the honorific ‘Sir’ in front of his name.

    • ‘Leading the North Yorkshire awards in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, published today, is the county's newest knight, Sir Robert Ogden.’
    • ‘In 1925 Asquith accepted a peerage as Earl of Oxford and Asquith and was created a knight of the garter shortly afterwards.’
    • ‘Counts, knights, barons and marquesses gathered in the guilded ballroom of the hotel to mark the focal event of the aristocratic social calendar.’
    • ‘Top tip for Birthday Honours - Timothy West will become a knight of the realm.’
    • ‘The order became defunct with the death of its last knight, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, in 1974.’
  • 3A chess piece, typically with its top shaped like a horse's head, that moves by jumping to the opposite corner of a rectangle two squares by three. Each player starts the game with two knights.

    • ‘The next day we see one grandmaster leaving a knight unprotected and another thrusting his pawn to a sure death.’
    • ‘In chess, if you move your knight on to a pawn's square, the pawn's a goner.’
    • ‘He moved his knight forward and deftly captured one of her pawns.’
    • ‘Indeed, the knight is the only chess piece that covers an asymmetrical pattern of squares.’
    • ‘Jerome rubbed his chin, and after a few minutes of thought, moved his knight, capturing Adam's last bishop.’


[with object]
  • Invest (someone) with the title of knight.

    ‘he was knighted for his services to industry’
    • ‘In 1942 he was knighted, no doubt partly due to his heroic service to his country during both wars.’
    • ‘Norman Wisdom proved he had earned a place in the nation's heart after being knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.’
    • ‘He is the only Australian to have been knighted for services to cricket.’
    • ‘Both Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen following the expedition.’
    • ‘Somerset's early career was in Wolsey's service and he was knighted in France in 1523.’
    • ‘Wilkie became an associate and then a member of the Royal Academy while very young; he was knighted and made a painter to the King.’
    • ‘He was knighted for this work in 1911, but was forced to retire from foreign service due to adverse affects of the tropics on his health.’
    • ‘A founder member of the National Portrait Society in 1911, he was knighted in 1936.’
    • ‘She turned the school around and in 2001 she was knighted for her services to education.’
    • ‘But it was for his successful plundering of Spanish merchant ships that he was knighted.’
    • ‘His many supporters cannot understand why he has not been knighted.’
    • ‘He received numerous honours, including the OBE in 1961, and he was knighted in 1974.’
    • ‘Sir Howard was knighted last year, largely for helping bring the Commonwealth Games to Manchester.’
    • ‘He was knighted in 2003 for services to public life in Scotland.’
    • ‘In 1983 he married a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk and he was knighted in 1993.’
    • ‘Lean was nominated for Oscars for directing, adapting and editing the film, and in June 1984 he was knighted.’
    • ‘He was knighted in 1671 by Charles II, and lies buried in the church of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich.’
    • ‘He was knighted for services to nursing and the NHS in the Queen's Birthday Honours last year.’
    • ‘He was knighted in 1979 for services to disabled people and died in 1982.’
    • ‘The Queen knighted him in 1988 as a reward for his long service to her.’
    knight, bestow a knighthood on, confer a knighthood on, invest with a knighthood
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  • knight in shining armour (or knight on a white charger)

    • An idealized or chivalrous man who comes to the rescue of a woman in a difficult situation.

      • ‘And although he had always maintained that there was no such thing as a knight in shining armour, he had still come to Julie's rescue readily enough.’
      • ‘Maybe a knight in shining armour will come forward to assist half a million pensioners worldwide.’
      • ‘Unlike many would-be damsels in distress, I never imagined myself being rescued by a knight in shining armor.’
      • ‘If he had known, why hadn't he ridden in like some knight in shining armor and rescued her?’
      • ‘It's no use waiting for a knight in shining armour to ride in and sweep you off your feet.’
      • ‘Her husband rushed into the kitchen, and like that proverbial knight in shining armor, took over from that point on.’
      • ‘After years of indoctrination by sappy romance stories and fairy tales, girls want to be swept off their feet by a knight in shining armor.’
      • ‘If you are a woman, you may identify a little more with the concept of the ideal man, the knight in shining armour, the one who will sweep us off our feet and change our lives for ever.’
      • ‘Theirs is a fairy-tale romance, with her knowing from the beginning that they are fated to be together, and him coming to her rescue like a knight in shining armor.’
      • ‘He was always so protective of me… always my knight in shining armor when we were children.’
      sir galahad, knight on a white charger, protector, rescuer, saviour, preserver, champion, defender, guardian, guardian angel, deliverer, liberator
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  • knight of the road

    • informal A man who frequents the roads, for example a travelling sales representative, tramp, or (formerly) a highwayman.

      • ‘However, the true attitude of these knights of the road was explained by one cabbie last week.’
      • ‘It began with the hauliers, those mild-mannered knights of the road who would no more dream of driving aggressively than of cancelling their subscription to New Internationalist magazine.’


Old English cniht ‘boy, youth, servant’, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch knecht and German Knecht. knight (sense 2 of the noun) dates from the mid 16th century; the uses relating to Greek and Roman history derive from comparison with medieval knights.