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From Middle High German ritter, from Middle Dutch ridder, Flemish byform of rîder, from rîden + -er (equivalent to German reiten +‎ -er).

In Middle High German, both ritter and rīter (whence modern Reiter) were used in the sense of “horseman”, “mounted man-at-arms”, as well as for the (emerging) rank of “knight”, and, by generalisation, any member of the lower nobility. Gradually, both forms were separated semantically (a vocabulary of 1487 has two distinct entries: miles: ritter vs. equester: reitter), and in early modern German a third (similar, though unrelated) form Reuter, from Dutch, was introduced. In this period, Ritter was the term for the class of the German lower nobility, Reuter was the normal word for a cavalryman, and Reiter was rare but sometimes used for “horseman”. From the 18th century, Ritter was gradually replaced by Kavalier, especially with individual noblemen, whereas the collective Ritterschaft remained in use for the class as a whole. Accordingly, Ritter becomes increasingly limited to the historic or romantic/poetic “medieval knight”.


  • IPA(key): /ˈʁɪtɐ/
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Ritter m (genitive Ritters, plural Ritter, female Ritterin)

  1. knight


Derived terms[edit]


  • Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, s.v. Ritter.
  • Ritter” in Duden online