AskDefine | Define paladin

Dictionary Definition

paladin n : someone who fights for a cause [syn: champion, fighter, hero]

User Contributed Dictionary



From , from paladino, from palatinus, "palace officer".


  1. A heroic champion (especially a knightly one).
  2. A defender or advocate of a noble cause.
  3. Any of the 12 Companions of the court of Emperor Charlemagne.

Extensive Definition

A paladin (derivative terms from palatine, and Latin palatinus, plural palatini) was a high-level official in numerous countries of medieval and early modern Europe.
The term paladin was first used in Ancient Rome for a chamberlain of the Emperor, and also for the imperial palace guard, called the Scholae Palatinae by Constantine. In the early Middle Ages, the meaning changed and the term was used for one of the highest officials of the Catholic Church in the Pope's service and also for one of the major noblemen of the Holy Roman Empire, who was then named Count Palatine. Similar titles were also used in 18th century Poland, 19th century Hungary and in the German Empire and United Kingdom during the early 20th century.
In medieval literature, the paladins, or Twelve Peers, were known in the Matter of France as the retainers of Charlemagne. Based on this usage, the term can also refer to an honorable knight, which has been used in contemporary fantasy literature.

Derivative terms

The different spellings originate from the different languages that used the title throughout the ages (a phenomenon called lenition). The word "paladin" evolved from the Latin word palatinus, meaning "belonging to the Palatine Hill", where the house of the Roman emperor was situated since Augustus. The meaning of the term changed only little, because throughout the Middle Ages, Latin was the dominant language in writings. But its spelling was slightly changed in the European languages: Latin palatinus, plural palatini, became in French palaisin, and with the Norman dynasty came to English as paladin and paladine, and German Paladin. The term was also adopted to describe the residence of the Ancient Roman palatinus, the palatium. In the early Middle Ages the German “paladin” was the elector of the King, and he was given the palatinate to have a territory as a basis to sustain him (Pfalz).
The word palace developed from “palatium” as well, so that a paladin was in one sense a palace official with more authority than other officials. Other uses are the titles of "mayor of the palace" and "count palatine". The original Middle French form is palaisin. The English paladin was loaned into Early Modern English from the Italian form, paladino, because late medieval treatments of the "Matter of France" were mostly by Italian authors such as Ludovico Ariosto and Matteo Maria Boiardo.
The word palatinus and its derivatives also translate the titles of certain great functionaries in eastern Europe, such as the Slavic voivode, a military governor of a province. In Poland the title of Palatyn (Comes Palatinus) has merged with that of Wojewoda (Dux Exercituum).


Ancient Rome

The Paladines of the Imperial Guard were named after its neighboring Scholae Palatinae. The Scholae Palatinae, itself named after its location on Palatine Hill, the mythical founding place of Rome, was the older of two schools of the ancient Salii brotherhood of God of War Mars, which lent some of their symbols to the imperial, later the papal palace.
Originally the term paladine was applied to the Chamberlains and to some troops guarding the palace of the Roman emperor. In Constantine's time, the title was also used for the most advanced field force of the army, the Praetorian Guard, that might guard the Roman Emperor on campaigns. The traditions of the two groups of 12 Salii priests and of the Praetorian Guard soon merged into one, creating an image of an influential official with nonphysical, even sacral connotations.

Holy Roman Empire

From the Middle Ages on, the term palatine was applied to various different officials across Europe. The most important of these was the comes palatinus, the count palatine, who in Merovingian and Carolingian times (5th through 10th century) was an official of the sovereign's household, in particular of his court of law. The count palatine was the official representative at proceedings of the court such as oath takings or judicial sentences and was in charge of the records of those developments. At first he examined cases in the king's court and was authorized to carry out the decisions, in time, these rights extended to having his own judicial rights. In addition to those responsibilities, the count palatine had administrative functions, especially concerning the king's household.
In the ninth century Carolingean rule came to an end and the title of Holy Roman emperor with it. About a century later the title was resurrected by Otto I though the new empire was now centered in Germany rather than France. Under the German kings of the Saxon and Salian dynasties (10th to 12th century), the function of the counts palatine corresponded to those of the missi dominici at the Carolingian Court. They had various tasks: representatives of the king in the provinces, they were responsible for the administration of the royal domain and for the protecting and guiding the legal system in certain duchies, such as Saxony and Bavaria, and, in particular, Lotharingia. Later other palatine rights were absorbed by ducal dynasties, by local families, or, in Italy, by bishops. Increasingly, the count palatine of Lotharingia, whose office had been attached to the royal palace at Aachen from the 10th century onward, became the real successor to the Carolingian count palatine. From his office grew the Countship Palatine of the Rhine, or simply the Palatinate, which became a great territorial power from the time of the emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) (d. 1190) on. The term palatine reoccurs under Charles IV, but they had only voluntary jurisdiction and some honorific functions.

Catholic Church

In the Middle Ages, the judices palatini ('[papal] palace judges') were the highest administrative officers of the pope's household; with the growth of the temporal power of the popes they acquired great importance.

Modern usage

In Early Modern England, the term palatinate, or county palatine, was also applied to counties of lords who could exercise powers normally reserved to the crown. Likewise, there were palatine provinces among the English colonies in North America: Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore, was granted palatine rights in Maryland in 1632, as were the proprietors of the Carolinas in 1663.
In 19th century Britain and Germany, paladin was an official rank and considered an honorary title for one in service of the emperors. It was a Knight with additional honours, they were entitled to exercise powers normally reserved to the crown.
During the German Third Reich, Hermann Göring was also given the title “Paladin”, referring to the tradition of a title that made the carrier second to the king.


Paladin as a word referring to a champion or warrior of the European Middle Ages is often used to describe Charlemagne's legendary retainers, the Twelve Peers of medieval chansons de geste and romances. In the original version in Latin, palatinus was used, and the number resembles that of the Salii priests mentioned above. These characters and their associated exploits are largely later fictional inventions, with some basis on historical Frankish retainers of the 8th century and events such as the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and the confrontation of the Frankish Empire with Umayyad Al-Andalus in the Marca Hispanica
The names of the twelve paladins vary from romance to romance, and often more than twelve paladins are named. The number is popular because it resembles the twelve Apostles – giving the king the position of Jesus not out of arrogance, but the conscience of the holy mission a king has. All Carolingian paladine stories feature paladins by the names of Roland and Oliver. Other recurring characters are Archbishop Turpin, Ogier the Dane, Huon of Bordeaux, Fierabras, Renaud de Montauban, and Ganelon. Tales of the paladins of Charlemagne once rivaled the stories of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table in popularity. Ariosto and Boiardo, whose works were once as widely read and respected as Shakespeare's, contributed most prominently to the literary/poetical reworking of the tales of the epic deeds of the paladins.
  • Rinaldo — Renaud de Montauban
  • Malagigi — Maugris, a sorcerer
  • Florismart — friend to Orlando
  • Guy de Bourgogne
  • Namo — (Naimon, Aymon, or Namus), Rinaldo's father
  • Otuel — another converted Saracen
The Celtic revival of the 1880s benefited the Arthurian material and encouraged its reworking and recirculation. No such aura of latter-day romance could assist the Charlemagne material, which remained strongly Christian and triumphant in its presentation in contrast to the melancholy of the ultimate failure of the Arthurian heroes, and their ambiguous position at the transition from Celtic paganism to Christianity. As a result, contemporary readers know Arthur and his Camelot well while hearing little of the paladins of Charlemagne, who once enjoyed similar renown.
In J.R.R Tolkien's 1950s trilogy The Lord of the Rings, the father of Peregrin Took, a principal hobbit character, is named Paladin.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s an American television series, "Have Gun – Will Travel," starred Richard Boone as a "knight without armor" called "Paladin". The series has been lauded as a bridge between the "squeaky clean" John Wayne genre and the darker persona of "The Man with No Name" played by Clint Eastwood.
In the Japanese manga Hellsing, Father Alexander Anderson is known as "The Paladin".

Present day

The official title has gone out of fashion, but the word "paladin" is still used to describe a benevolent, heroic champion, or the defender of a good cause.
Some modern role playing games (such as Dungeons & Dragons, Dark Age of Camelot and Warcraft), as well as pieces of fantasy literature, make use of a "paladin" character class based on this concept. Typically a paladin has both melee and healing abilities.
Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, uses the nickname "Paladins" for their athletic teams. The Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, is represented in Canadian Interuniversity Sport by the RMC Paladins logo.
The film Jumper uses the term "Paladin" to describe the group of people that track down and destroy persons empowered with the ability to teleport.
Paladin is the character name played by Richard Boone in the 1957 television show "Have Gun Will Travel".



paladin in Aragonese: Palazín
paladin in Catalan: Paladine
paladin in Danish: Paladin
paladin in German: Paladin
paladin in Spanish: Paladín
paladin in French: Paladin
paladin in Italian: Paladino
paladin in Hebrew: אביר קודש
paladin in Dutch: Paladijn
paladin in Japanese: パラディン
paladin in Polish: Paladyn
paladin in Portuguese: Paladino
paladin in Russian: Паладин
paladin in Simple English: Paladin
paladin in Finnish: Paladiini
paladin in Swedish: Paladin
paladin in Turkish: Paladine
paladin in Chinese: 聖騎士

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Achilles, David, Hector, Roland, Samson, a man, advocate, apologist, brave, bulldog, champion, chutzpanik, decorated hero, defender, demigod, demigoddess, fighting cock, gallant, gamecock, good soldier, guard, hero, heroine, lion, man of courage, protector, stalwart, supporter, the brave, tiger, upholder, valiant, valiant knight, vindicator
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