Have you ever wondered about the silent k in knight? Why is it there? The truth, in fact, is that it used to be. In old English, it was pronounced kuh-nite and spelled cniht, deriving from the Germanic word knecht, meaning 'servant' or 'boy'. The phrase 'servant' was translated into English and taken to mean 'servant of the king' around 1100 CE. Around 1300, knight somehow got mangled into the current spelling and became a lot more serious than 'boy', coming to denote a warrior rather than a submissive. Around the same time, to knight and knighthood began to be utilized. The most fascinating part of the history of this word was when, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it suddenly fell out of fashion to pronounce the k at the start of any kn- words, because it made everything too choppy and lengthy, so English speakers as a whole stopped pronouncing it as kuh-nite and started saying nite instead (though of course it was still spelled knight). Too bad knights are all but pufferies at this point; we won't get to see its etymology develop further.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd