Idiom: Knight in shining armourOED definition: An idealised or chivalrous man who comes to the rescue of a woman in a difficult situationExample: The princess was rescued from the tower by her knight in shining armour
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This idiom has its origins in the romantic depictions of brave knights in art and literature in the Middle Ages. It is particularly associated with the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The use of the expression seems to have begun in the 18th century, with it gaining popularity throughout the 19th century. The first print evidence comes from a satirical poem by English poet Henry Pye in 1790. Pye describes the ‘The knight, in shining armour dress’d’. Although this may be the first use of the phrase in print, at the time, its meaning related to the general qualities and characteristics expected of a knight. These included courage, courtesy, generosity and chivalry. It later took on the idiomatic notion of a fearless hero.
Interestingly, this idiom is still very much in common use despite the rise in equality between men and women within society. As women no longer need a ‘heroic rescuer’ to come and save her from her plight, the phrase is now used to refer to both men and women who provide relief in a particular situation. It has also taken on a slightly less grandiose meaning, and is often used in everyday situations, for example, for a friend who offers to look after the kids for half and hour to give you a much-needed break.