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Horse servant in front of the Schmeisselmühle, Falkensteinrotte, Frankenfels, Austria (before the First World War)

A servant ( West Germanic still for young guy, warrior, later squire ) is a worker in a farm , a profession that is dying out in Germany . In the past there have been in the household depending on the application the Hofknecht, groom or servant , in commercial the Holzknecht , teamster , mill Knecht (Mühlknappen), etc. In warfare they knew the noble servant , man-at-arms and mercenary . In the Middle Ages there was the executioner who carried out the death penalty . The judge servant is also known in the judiciary .

The female equivalent of the servant is the maid .

Change of meaning

The word Knecht (German, Dutch) and the etymologically related word knight (English) went through a change in meaning . In German and Dutch , there was an important deterioration (pejoration, Pejoration) and in English to an important improvement (land reclamation) .

The term servant dropped since the international migration times throughout the continental West Germanic dialect continuum in the general esteem, Knecht was becoming the offensive are dirty word. As servant was - appropriately - often a submissive ("servant soul"), at the same time raw and cowardly demeanor .

In military history, the term servant is a (neutral) opposite of the knight (for example there is the specific servant armor ). The term was used until the 16th century to mean servant as foot soldier ( foot servant or arm servant ) in contrast to brushwood , a soldier on horseback. The meaning of the word servant changed at the beginning of modern times with the introduction of the "Landsknechte", who were mercenaries (pay servants).

In contrast to German and Dutch, the term experienced an appreciation in English. Here the equivalent word knight stands for a knight.

Social science

The mutual social dependency of master and servant is already critically analyzed in the Enlightenment ( see servitude ), is found as a central motif in Hegel's philosophy, see domination and servitude , and is passed on through this to Marxism , there finally to The class struggle came to a head (“wage bondage”).

Sociological material can be found particularly in agricultural sociology .


The Bible (Luther translation) uses the term in various meanings. On the one hand, it is a synonym for the unfree (slave), but also the devoted servant . The underlying Hebrew root עבד means “to serve”, but also simply “to work”. The Old Testament contains special regulations on the humane treatment of slaves, e.g. B. in the covenant book (Ex 21ff), take into account the fact that Israel, according to its self-understanding, is a people of liberated slaves (cf. also the explanation of the 3rd commandment in Dtn 5:15). Job is called a faithful servant of God, which should describe him as particularly pious and righteous. Isaiah prophesies a “suffering servant of God” who was traditionally identified with Jesus in the Christian reception (cf. Lk 24:26). In the New Testament, the Roman legionaries are referred to as soldiers. In theological use, the Greek translation of Hebrew עבד, δούλος is used extensively, especially as a designation for believers, such as the self-designation of the apostle Paul in his letters.

The servant in mythology and literature

See also

Web links

Wikisource: Servants  - Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Knecht  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations