From Middle High German ritter, a variant form of rîter "rider" reflecting the Low German syllable structure (ridder). In Middle High German, both ritter and rîter were used in the sense of "mounted man-at-arms", "horseman" as well as for the (emerging) rank of knight (Old French chevalier) or more generally any member of the lower nobility. Separation in form and sense from Reiter is complete by the late 15th century (a vocabulary of 1487 has two distinct entries: miles: ritter vs. equester: reitter). In the early modern period, Ritter was the term for the class of the German lower nobility and held little or no "medieval" connotations; in the 18th century, it was gradually replaced by its synonym Kavalier, and by the 19th century, Ritter was no longer used of individual noblemen (while the collective Ritterschaft remained in use for the class as a whole), and the word becomes increasingly limited to the poetic or romantic "medieval knight".
Ritter m (genitive Ritters, plural Ritter)