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Knight vs. Samurai: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Knights were medieval European warriors serving a lord, bound by chivalry; Samurai were Japanese warriors serving a daimyo, following Bushido code.
Knight vs. Samurai

Key Differences

Knights were warriors in medieval Europe, typically serving a liege lord or monarch. They were bound by the code of chivalry, emphasizing bravery, honor, and gallantry towards women. For example, a knight would serve his king loyally in battle. Samurai were members of a powerful military caste in feudal Japan, serving a daimyo (feudal lord). They followed the Bushido code, which stressed loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death, such as a samurai serving his daimyo faithfully.
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Nov 17, 2023
The social status of knights varied, with some being of noble birth, while others were commoners who earned knighthood through valor. A knight could rise in status through acts of bravery. Samurai, however, were always part of the Japanese social elite, hereditary warriors with a high social status from birth, as shown by a samurai's inherited position.
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Knights were heavily armored, especially in the later Middle Ages, and fought primarily on horseback. They were known for their use of swords, lances, and shields, like a knight charging into battle with his lance. Samurai, in contrast, were known for their skill with the katana and bow, and although they also fought on horseback, their armor was more flexible to allow swift movement, reflecting a samurai's agility in combat.
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The knight’s role evolved over time, from a warrior class to a more symbolic and ceremonial role by the Renaissance, as seen in the ceremonial duties of a knight. The samurai, on the other hand, retained a significant political and military role in Japan until the Meiji Restoration, with a samurai's role adapting to the changing political landscape.
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Nov 17, 2023
The cultural impact of knights and samurai extends into modern times, with knights often symbolizing the ideals of chivalry and heroism in Western culture, while samurai are admired for their discipline, skill, and loyalty in Japanese culture and beyond, as portrayed in various forms of art and literature.
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Comparison Chart

Origin

Medieval Europe
Feudal Japan
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Code of Conduct

Chivalry (bravery, honor, courtesy)
Bushido (loyalty, honor, martial arts mastery)
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Social Status

Varied, could be noble or commoner
Hereditary, elite social class
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Primary Weaponry

Sword, lance, shield
Katana, bow
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Role Evolution

Evolved to ceremonial role
Maintained military, political role
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Knight and Samurai Definitions

Knight

A medieval warrior of European origin, often of noble status.
The knight swore allegiance to his king.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 16, 2023

Samurai

A skilled, disciplined warrior, often idealized in Japanese culture.
The samurai was renowned for his mastery of the katana.
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Knight

A person devoted to the service of a woman as a chivalrous lover.
In the tale, he acted as a knight to the distressed damsel.
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Samurai

A person embodying the qualities of discipline, honor, and skill, like historical samurai.
In business, he was as disciplined as a samurai.
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Knight

A medieval tenant giving military service as a mounted man-at-arms to a feudal landholder.
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Oct 19, 2023
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Samurai

A member of the Japanese warrior caste, historically serving feudal lords.
The samurai served his daimyo with utmost loyalty.
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Knight

A medieval gentleman-soldier, usually high-born, raised by a sovereign to privileged military status after training as a page and squire.
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Samurai

A figure in Japanese history and folklore, often romanticized.
Legends spoke of the samurai's bravery and honor.
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Knight

A man holding a nonhereditary title conferred by a sovereign in recognition of personal merit or service to the country.
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Samurai

The Japanese feudal military aristocracy.
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Knight

A man belonging to an order or brotherhood.
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Samurai

A professional warrior belonging to this class.
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Knight

A defender, champion, or zealous upholder of a cause or principle.
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Samurai

In feudal Japan, a soldier who served a daimyo.
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Knight

The devoted champion of a lady.
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Samurai

In the former feudal system of Japan, the class or a member of the class, of military retainers of the daimios, constituting the gentry or lesser nobility. They possessed power of life and death over the commoners, and wore two swords as their distinguishing mark. Their special rights and privileges were abolished with the fall of feudalism in 1871. They were referred to as "a cross between a knight and a gentleman".
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Knight

Abbr. Kt or N(Games) A chess piece, usually in the shape of a horse's head, that can be moved two squares along a rank and one along a file or two squares along a file and one along a rank. The knight is the only piece that can jump other pieces to land on an open square.
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Samurai

A Japanese warrior who was a member of the feudal military aristocracy
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Knight

To raise (a person) to knighthood.
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Samurai

Feudal Japanese military aristocracy
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Knight

(historical) A young servant or follower; a trained military attendant in service of a lord.
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Samurai

In modern usage, someone who is fiercely loyal or devoted to a cause.
She was a samurai in her dedication to environmental protection.
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Knight

(historical) A minor nobleman with an honourable military rank who had served as a page and squire.
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Knight

(by extension) An armored and mounted warrior of the Middle Ages.
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
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Knight

A person obliged to provide knight service in exchange for maintenance of an estate held in knight's fee.
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Knight

(modern) A person on whom a knighthood has been conferred by a monarch.
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Knight

(literary) A brave, chivalrous and honorable man devoted to a noble cause or love interest.
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Knight

(chess) A chess piece, often in the shape of a horse's head, that is moved two squares in one direction and one at right angles to that direction in a single move, leaping over any intervening pieces.
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Knight

A playing card bearing the figure of a knight; the knave or jack.
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Knight

(entomology) Any of various nymphalid butterflies of the genus Ypthima.
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Knight

(modern) Any mushroom belonging to genus Tricholoma.
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Knight

(transitive) To confer knighthood upon.
The king knighted the young squire.
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Knight

To promote (a pawn) to a knight.
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Knight

A young servant or follower; a military attendant.
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Knight

In feudal times, a man-at-arms serving on horseback and admitted to a certain military rank with special ceremonies, including an oath to protect the distressed, maintain the right, and live a stainless life.
Knights, by their oaths, should right poor ladies' harms.
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Knight

A piece used in the game of chess, usually bearing a horse's head.
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Knight

A playing card bearing the figure of a knight; the knave or jack.
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Knight

To dub or create (one) a knight; - done in England by the sovereign only, who taps the kneeling candidate with a sword, saying: Rise, Sir --.
A soldier, by the honor-giving handOf CŒur-de-Lion knighted in the field.
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Knight

Originally a person of noble birth trained to arms and chivalry; today in Great Britain a person honored by the sovereign for personal merit
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Oct 19, 2023

Knight

A chessman in the shape of a horse's head; can move two squares horizontally and one vertically (or vice versa)
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Knight

Raise (someone) to knighthood;
The Beatles were knighted
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Knight

A titled honor granted for bravery or service, especially in the UK.
He was made a knight for his contributions to science.
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Knight

A chess piece, moving in an L-shape.
She moved her knight to protect the king.
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Knight

A person regarded as having qualities associated with medieval knights, like bravery.
He was celebrated as a knight for his heroic deeds.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Did knights wear armor?

Yes, knights typically wore metal armor for protection during battles and tournaments.
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When did knights exist?

Knights were most prominent during the medieval period in Europe, roughly from the 10th to the 15th centuries.
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What is a samurai?

A samurai was a member of the Japanese warrior class, a skilled fighter who served a feudal lord and followed a strict ethical code known as Bushido.
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Were knights part of a social class?

Yes, knights were part of a distinct social class in medieval Europe, often coming from nobility or the warrior class.
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What is a knight?

A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch or other political leader for service to the monarch or country, especially in a military capacity.
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Nov 17, 2023

What era did samurais belong to?

Samurai were significant in Japan from the 12th to the 19th centuries, especially during the feudal era.
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Was being a samurai hereditary?

Yes, becoming a samurai was typically hereditary, and families passed down their status and privileges through generations.
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What weapons did knights use?

Knights commonly used swords, lances, and shields, along with various other medieval weapons.
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What is chivalry?

Chivalry is the traditional code of conduct associated with medieval knighthood, emphasizing virtues like bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry towards women.
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Can women be knights?

Historically, knighthood was male-dominated, but in modern times, women can be granted honorary knighthoods.
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Were there female samurais?

While rare, there were female samurais known as "Onna-Bugeisha," who engaged in battle alongside male samurais.
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Did samurais use horses?

Yes, samurais were skilled horsemen and often used horses in battles and during the feudal era.
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What is Bushido?

Bushido is the code of moral principles that the samurai were required to observe; it emphasized loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death.
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What is the Round Table?

The Round Table refers to King Arthur's legendary table in Arthurian legend, at which he and his knights congregated.
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What kind of armor did samurais wear?

Samurais wore armor made of leather and metal, including helmets and masks, designed for both protection and mobility.
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What were the primary weapons of a samurai?

Samurai were renowned for their skill with the katana (a long sword) and the wakizashi (a shorter sword), as well as the bow and arrow.
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What is a knight's mount?

Knights typically rode horses, which were trained for battle and often wore protective armor.
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Are knights still appointed today?

Yes, but modern knighthood is a symbolic title recognizing contributions to society or the state and does not involve military service.
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What is a "Ronin"?

A Ronin was a samurai without a master during the feudal period of Japan, often due to the loss or fall of their lord.
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Is the samurai class still active?

No, the samurai class ceased to exist as a distinct social class with the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century.
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Nov 17, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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