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Paladin vs. Knight: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 23, 2023
A paladin is a heroic champion often with a religious or moral cause, while a knight is a mounted warrior granted knighthood by a monarch or political leader.

Key Differences

A paladin historically refers to one of the twelve peers of Charlemagne's court, known for their chivalry and heroism. Knights, however, were primarily military servants to a lord or monarch, known for their skill in mounted combat.
Paladins are often portrayed in literature and mythology as warriors of virtue, driven by a moral or religious cause. Knights, on the other hand, were bound by the code of chivalry, which included military service, courtesy, and honor.
In modern fantasy contexts, paladins are seen as holy warriors imbued with divine powers or blessings. Conversely, knights in historical and fantasy settings are typically depicted as elite soldiers or nobility with military prowess.
The concept of a paladin extends beyond the battlefield, often embodying ideals of justice and righteousness. Knights, while also upholding certain ideals, were more focused on feudal loyalty and martial skills.
In role-playing games, paladins are usually characterized by a combination of fighting ability and magical skills, often with a focus on healing or protection. Knights in these contexts are generally more focused on physical combat and less on magical abilities.

Comparison Chart

Historical Origin

Originated as peers of Charlemagne's court.
Emerged as mounted warriors in medieval Europe.


Embodies virtue, justice, and often religious zeal.
Bound by chivalry, honor, and feudal loyalty.

Role in Literature

Often depicted as heroic champions with moral causes.
Typically portrayed as skilled warriors or nobility.

Modern Interpretation

Seen as holy warriors with divine powers in fantasy.
Viewed as elite soldiers with martial focus.

Role in Role-Playing Games

Combines fighting with magical abilities, often for protection or healing.
Focuses on physical combat, less on magical skills.

Paladin and Knight Definitions


A holy warrior in fantasy settings, often with divine powers.
The paladin used her healing powers to save her wounded allies.


In chess, a piece that moves in an L-shape.
He moved his knight to checkmate his opponent.


A character in role-playing games combining combat prowess with moral righteousness.
In the game, my paladin character fights against evil with both sword and magic.


Someone devoted to the service of a lady as a gallant or courtly lover.
In the story, the knight dedicated his victories to his beloved.


A heroic champion, often with a religious or moral cause.
The paladin vowed to protect the village from the approaching threat.


A mounted warrior of the medieval period, often of noble birth.
The knight rode into battle with his banner flying high.


A member of the highest order of chivalry in medieval times.
As a paladin, he was revered for his unwavering dedication to justice.


In historical contexts, a person of high social position trained for combat and chivalric duties.
The knight upheld the code of chivalry in all his deeds.


A paragon of chivalry; a heroic champion.


A man awarded a non-hereditary title by a monarch or other political leader for service to the monarch or country.
The king knighted him for his bravery in battle.


A strong supporter or defender of a cause
"the paladin of plain speaking" (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.).


Any of the 12 peers of Charlemagne's court.


A heroic champion, especially a knight.


A defender or advocate of a noble cause.


Any of the twelve Companions of the court of Emperor Charlemagne.


A knight-errant; a distinguished champion; as, the paladins of Charlemagne.


Someone who fights for a cause


A leading champion of a cause, noted for bravery and righteousness.
She was the paladin in the campaign for environmental conservation.


Did knights exist in real history?

Yes, knights were a significant part of medieval European military systems.

Are paladins always associated with good?

Typically, but some stories feature morally ambiguous or fallen paladins.

Can a woman be a paladin or knight?

In modern interpretations and fantasy, yes, both roles are gender-inclusive.

What defines a paladin?

A paladin is often a heroic figure, known for virtue and sometimes divine powers.

Are paladins religious figures?

Historically and in fantasy, they often have religious or moral motivations.

What is a knight?

A knight is a warrior granted knighthood for service, often skilled in mounted combat.

What was the main duty of a knight?

Knights were primarily responsible for military service to their lord or monarch.

Were knights part of the nobility?

Many knights were of noble birth, but knighthood could be granted to commoners for valor.

What kind of armor did knights wear?

Knights typically wore metal armor, including chainmail and later plate armor.

Are paladins always warriors?

In most depictions, yes, they are portrayed as skilled in combat.

Do paladins exist today?

Not in the historical sense, but the term is used metaphorically for champions of causes.

Did knights follow a specific code?

Yes, they were bound by the code of chivalry, emphasizing honor and duty.

Do paladins have special powers in fantasy?

Often, they are depicted with divine or magical abilities.

Can paladins be of different religious faiths?

In fantasy settings, yes, they can represent various faiths or moral codes.

How do paladins differ in role-playing games?

They often combine combat skills with magical abilities, focusing on protection or healing.

What was the role of a knight in a castle?

Knights served as protectors of the castle and its inhabitants.

Is a paladin a type of knight?

Historically, paladins were a special class of knights; in fantasy, they are distinct.

What weapons did knights use?

Knights commonly used swords, lances, and shields.

Did knights participate in tournaments?

Yes, tournaments were a common venue for knights to display their combat skills.

Are paladins common in fantasy literature?

Yes, they are a popular archetype in fantasy stories and games.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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