‘Knight’ vs ‘Samurai’: What’s the difference? Learning new vocabulary can also be a great way to learn about culture and history. In this article, you’ll learn about two kinds of ancient warriors and how to distinguish between them.
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Before we dive into the differences, let’s discuss what makes these words similar. Both ‘Knight’ and ‘Samurai’ are words describing men who were or are warriors. They serve their country or sovereign, typically in some military fashion.
The main difference between ‘Knight’ vs ‘Samurai’ is who, where, and sometimes when they are serving.
Note that both of these terms describe very real people and positions, and are not just used in fairytales and folklore — despite that being where these people can sometimes appear.
Knowing the main difference between these words is a good place to start, but it doesn’t give us the full picture. Let’s take a closer look individually at ‘Knight’ vs ‘Samurai’ and learn more about what they mean.
As a verb, ‘Knight’ can also mean:
The word ‘Knight’ comes from the Old English ‘cniht’ which meant “boy, youth, servant” and had ties to Dutch and German words of similar meaning. We can see how the origin of the word, particularly meaning “servant” would evolve to the warriors of today.
As mentioned, the term ‘Knight’ is of European descent and remains relevant there today. Historically though, ‘Knights’ were gentlemen soldiers who were typically of a higher status, specifically cavalrymen. As Christianity grew more popular in Europe, the notion that ‘Knights’ were men of chivalry evolved and connected them to the ideals of the church.
This religious idea of knighthood combined with the fairytales of the Medieval Ages is likely what led to modern depictions of ‘Knights’ as heroes who rescue princesses in towers. However, being a ‘Knight’ is still possible in the modern age in the United Kingdom.
According to Oxford Languages, ‘Samurai’ is a noun that means:
The term ‘Samurai’ comes from the Japanese word ‘saburau’ which means “to serve” and was first used in 702 A.D. to describe a class of empirical guards. Note that this is similar to the origin of the word ‘Knight’ and how, in both cultures, these types of warriors began as servants.
The basis of ‘Samurai’ conduct is a practice called Bushido, which means “the way of the warrior.” It is a practice that emphasizes stoicism and honor, as well as selflessness and the principle of giving up one’s life to serve a master.
The ‘Samurai’ were a powerful class of warriors, particularly during the Edo Period and times of war. They would defend the lord’s territories and fight against rebel tribes and bandits. But, during the two-century peacetime of the Tokugawa shogunate, the need for trained warriors declined which led to the disbandment of the ‘Samurai’ class permanently.
There is a lot of media content that involves ‘Samurai,’ some that are more historically accurate than others. Many movies that depict ‘Samurai’ are from the mid-20th century, but their influence and stories appear in a variety of pop culture works.
Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Knight’ as a guide:
Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Samurai’ as a guide:
The final step to mastering these words is being able to use them in your own context. Take a look at the sample sentences below to get an idea of how these words may appear in the world, and use them as a reference for learning and practicing your own sentences.
While some words may not seem like they relate, learning how they connect and differ can be a great way to expand your vocabulary. It can also be a great way to increase your global understanding and connect your writing skills to different historical periods and cultures.
Need a review? Here’s a quick recap of what we learned:
Want to learn how you can keep connecting your vocabulary to history? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles that give you a better understanding of how language connects to culture and history.
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