Word of the Month: Paladin

David Zapatka

The NCAA basketball tournament is fondly called March Madness, and madness it was this year. There may have been more upsets in the big tournament this year than any other year. One of the biggest was the Furman Paladins, a small South Carolina school of 2,970 students, upsetting the #4 seed, Virginia Cavaliers, a school of over 17,000 students. The last time Furman qualified for the tournament was 1980 when Ronald Reagan was president.

It was a big upset but the bigger question sports fans were asking was, “What is a Paladin and why is it Furman’s mascot? It looks like a purple and gray knight.” Well, that is a fair description.

Paladin—pal·a·din pal-uh-din noun 1. any one of the 12 legendary peers or knightly champions in attendance on Charlemagne. 2. any knightly or heroic champion. 3. any determined advocate or defender of a noble cause. 4. A trusted military leader.

Origin and Etymology—First recorded in 1585–95; from French, from Italian paladino, from Late Latin palātīnus “imperial functionary.”

First Known Use—1592, in the meaning defined above.

Paladin used in a sentence:

We’ve all heard that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The site where Rome was founded is Palatine Hill (known as Palatium in Latin), the site of the cave where Roman legend tells us Romulus and Remus were abandoned as infants, nursed by a she-wolf, and fed by a woodpecker before being found by a herdsman. In ancient Rome, the emperor’s palace was located on the Palatine Hill since the site was the seat of imperial power. Latin palatium came to mean “imperial” as well as “palace.” From palatium came Latin palatinus. Different forms of these words passed through Latin, Italian, and French. Eventually some of those forms made their way into English, including paladin and palace.

An aged paladin, somewhat uxorious and always penniless, he was a typical knight errant, whose wanderings led him all over Europe and planted him successively on the thrones of Jerusalem and Constantinople.

Paladin in the news:

Regé-Jean Page and Chris Pine play a paladin and a bard, respectively, in the new Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie.—Dana Rose Falcone, Peoplemag, 31 Mar. 2023

That said, both channel a similar irreverence for fantasy adventures—and make an argument for always having a paladin in your party.—Todd Martens, Los Angeles Times, 10 Mar. 2023

Players design characters that can range from humans to elves to dwarves and beyond and then select a class such as paladin, fighter, ranger, barbarian, or several others.—Joe Otterson, Variety, 10 Jan. 2023

Paladins are characters in the game, Dungeons and Dragons. These Paladins take some of the best parts of the Fighter and Cleric classes, mix them together, and make one very amazing class all their own.

Is there a paladin in your life? Please submit your experiences or any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments, to [email protected].