This is a medieval status name from the Olde English pre 7th Century "criht", meaning boy, youth or serving lad, later extended to mean a tenant bound to serve his lord as a mounted soldier and therefore a man of some importance and substance. Later still, with the changes in the social structure of medieval England, the term "knight", (Middle English "knyghte") meant an honourable estate conferred by the king on men of noble birth who had served him well. The "Knights" of today, however, are far more likely to be descended from a servant in a knight's household or from someone who played the part of a knight in a medieval pageant or won the title in some contest of skill...
Knight (Variants: Night, Knivett, Knights)
An English and Scottish status name and occupational name, nickname from Middle English knight, knicht , knyt(h), (Old English cniht ). The Old English word meant ‘lad’ or ‘servant’, and the sense ‘servant, attendant, or retainer’ survived into early Middle English.
A nickname for someone who aped the behaviour of a knight or played the role in a folk play, tableau, or ceremony. Although a term originally applied to a young man after he was admitted to the privilege of bearing arms, by a certain ceremony of great importance called knighting, for some bearers, the period between childhood and manhood.
In Ireland, the surname is sometimes adopted for Mac an Ridire ‘son of the knight’, also McKnight.
Early bearers of the surname include: Walter le Knit, 1200 in Oseney Cartulary (Oxon); William Knicht’, 1221 in Assize Rolls (Worcs); John Knyght, 1275 in Hundred Rolls (Suffolk); Gervasius Knyght, 1379 in Poll Tax (Graffham, Sussex); Willelmus Knyht, 1379 in Poll Tax (Kingsbury, Warwicks); Johannes Knyght, 1379 in Poll Tax (Pontefract, WR Yorks); Ricardus Knyt, 1381 in Poll Tax (Adlestrop, Gloucs); Johes. Knight, 1539 in IGI (Audley, Staffs); Stephen Knight, 1540 in IGI (Farnham, Surrey); Joonne Knight, 1543 in IGI (Arlingham, Gloucs); Gregorie Knight, 1583 in IGI (Oare, Kent); Joane Knight, 1589 in IGI (Glinton, Northants).
In 1891, the surname was recorded in England and Wales with 38,659 occurrences and a further 636 in Scotland.
In 1881, the surname was widespread especially south, west and central England. Kent was reported as a top county for the surname with 2,315 occurrences. More centralised, it was also reported as a top surname by occurrence in Bristol district located in Gloucestershire.
In 1881, it was also reported that the most common Knight occupation in the UK was Agricultural Labourer. Agricultural Labourer, Farmer and Labourer were the top 3 reported jobs worked by Knight. A less common occupation was Carpenter.
Sir Peter Knight FRS (b.1947, a British physicist that was knighted in the Queen’s 2005 Birthday Honours. He is a professor of quantum optics, which investigating phenomena involving light and its interactions with matter at submicroscopic levels.
Another noted, Beverley Knight MBE (b.1973), a British recording artist that is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest soul singers.
1881, 1891 Census
1881 Census in Kent
1881 Cencus in Gloucestershire
Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003
Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890
The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016
1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain
1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain
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