Knight in shining armor is an idiom that has been in use since the turn of the 20th century. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom knight in shining armor, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
A knight in shining armor is generally an idealized companion. Traditionally, a knight in shining armor refers to a gallant man who comes to woman’s rescue—he may be rescuing her from physical harm, from a difficult situation, or simply, from loneliness. Sometimes, the phrase knight in shining armor simply refers to someone who performs a heroic deed. The expression knight in shining armor did not come into use until the turn of the 20th century, though it stems from imagery popular in medieval times. During that time, stories of dashing and chivalrous knights performing heroic deeds for damsels in distress were popular. These types of stories still live on in fairy tales and romance novels.
When she recently got trapped in an elevator, this damsel in distress was rescued by her very own knight in shining armor… a member of the New York City Fire Department. (Newsweek Magazine)
The building melody intensifies as Juliet wonders if Romeo will be her knight in shining armor. (The Ithican)
If he is reading this, I hope our “knight in shining armor” knows how thankful four elderly people are. (Baltimore Sun)