Knight vs. Night: What’s the Difference?

Another day and another set of confusing words. Like so many words in English, knight and night have identical pronunciations, but they have incredibly different meanings. In fact, their definitions are in no way related at all.

Today, I want to briefly go over these two words, their definitions and functions in sentences, and give you a few ways to keep track of them.

When to Use Knight

grammar difference between knight and nightKnight can be used as both a noun and a verb, but most generally is used as a noun. A knight is a medieval gentleman-soldier who served his sovereign or lord as a mounted man-at-arms. In its most basic sense, a knight is a man who served in the military during medieval times as a high-ranking soldier. A knight might be considered the modern equivalent of an officer.

In today’s usage, knight has also taken on a figurative sense. For example, a knight can refer to someone who is a defender, champion, or zealous upholder of a cause.

  • He was the knight that the movement needed.
  • He fought for reforms as any knight defending his honor would.

Knight can also be used to describe a man who is the devoted champion of a lady. For example,

  • He is my knight in shining armor.

Lastly, knight can be used as a verb and means “to raise a person to knighthood.” This is an honorary title bestowed upon someone by a monarch of other political leader. For example,

  • The Queen of England knighted Paul McCartney.

When to Use Night

night concrete or abstract nounNight is the much more frequently used word of the two because we experience it every single day of our lives. Night is defined as “the period between sunset and sunrise, especially the hours of darkness.” For example,

  • What are you doing tomorrow night?
  • The night scares me.

While night and knight are both nouns, night refers to a time of day and knight refers to human beings.

Concrete or Abstract?

Knight is an example of a concrete noun. Concrete nouns are just as they sound: concrete. You can touch them and experience them with your physical senses. Since knights are human beings and you can touch a human being, they squarely fit into the concrete noun category.

Night, on the other hand, is a little tricky. You might think that it is an abstract noun because it doesn’t seem tangible. For instance, you can’t hold on to night. But a more precise definition of a concrete noun will show that night indeed is concrete. Alfred S. West in his book The Elements of English Grammar defines a concrete noun as “the name of a thing regarded as having attributes.” Under this definition, night would fit as a concrete noun because it does having defining attributes, namely darkness, solemnity, silence, etc.

Summary

A knight is a person, a human being. Knight, therefore, is a concrete noun, but it can also be used as a verb.

The night is a time of day and is also a concrete noun.