benighted » beknighted

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • “Imagine the path of a beknighted soul as it paves its mark on the very hearts of all who hear of it.” (link)
  • “People from this beknighted time stream will be able to reach the more advanced and perfected culture of the alternative time stream.” (link)
  • “The gist of the commercials is that anyone who sticks with PC’s is a beknighted fool who doesn’t know what they’re missing.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Ann Burlingham (Usenet newsgroup soc.motss, 15 August 2005)

This one can’t be a simple spelling error, since it replaces the incredibly frequent “night” with the much more specialized “knight”. Apparently the function of knights as guardians and protectors comes to the fore in this reshaping. What lets this work is that the function of the prefix “be-” has become opaque.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/08/21 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Rick Curry , 2005/10/23 at 10:37 pm

    I recall this word being defined as “one who has knighted himself”. My first exposure to it was from this limerick:

    There once was a man so beknighted
    that he never knew when he’d been slighted
    so he went to a party
    and ate just as hearty
    as if he’d been really invited

  2. 2

    Commentary by Richard Beckwith , 2005/10/25 at 5:53 pm

    I just ran into this page because MS Word told me that “beknighted” was misspelled.

    I went to and, surprisingly, found nothing. So I googled. There were any number of example sentences to be found many of which meant someone who had been made a Knight. However, more frequently, I found the negative sense that I had set out to use.

    My impression, which I think matches the sense in the examples here and elsewhere, is that “beknighted” means something like “inappropriately held in high esteem”, “promoted to underserved prominence”, or something like “treated in such a way as to indicate an undeserved reverence”.

    My inability to find beknighted as an adjective in onelook suggests that my idiolect is somehow at odds with those of many lexicographers. “Beknighted” in the positive sense can be derived from existing headwords but the negative sense cannot (as indicated in the original posting here).

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