View Full Version : Medieval Soldiers AKA

08-13-2012, 08:13 AM
My thesaurus is failing me. I'm looking for an alternative name for soldiers in a medieval sci-fi/fantasy setting. "Soldier" sounds too modern, but "knight" sounds too archaic.

Some info on the setting: It's a colony world that's been abandoned for a thousand years. Basic level of technology is late-medieval or early-renaissance period, with a few (more advanced) exceptions. The land is broken into three districts, each ruled by a king, but there is a council of elected officials just below the king in authority. The soldiers are part of the king's army, but they aren't necessarily rich landowners. They can be conscripted from the general populace or volunteer, as needed. Horses are the main mode of transport, along with coaches and wagons. They do have extensive herbology and natural medicine, and women can wear split skirts, or loose trousers under long tunics, so not everything is primitive.

I'd like the name to fit within the "feel" of the medieval-esque setting. I wouldn't mind something different or unusual, but at the same time, it must be instantly recognizable. The MC has amnesia, so it can't be some obscure word that the reader wouldn't recognize, because then they'll wonder how on earth the MC knew to call them that.

Any thoughts on what I can call these guys? Something real, from history, would be great, but I'll take anything that implies the idea of a soldier/knight.

08-13-2012, 08:39 AM
Centurions, rough riders, oh, excuse me for a sec and I'll be back...

08-13-2012, 09:04 AM
Warmen, Troopers, Calvary (fave so far), [anything] riders, Armsbearers, [weapon]-eers, mountsmen, dread-[anything] (also a fave), the chain(er)s...

Something based on shield shape like The Oval bearers, or Diskmen.

Something just ominous like the Harkhunters, the Mercenaries of [place or person] or perhaps even Menagerie of [same].

I may be back again... depends on if I can figure out what is in the corner in my WIP.

08-13-2012, 09:34 AM
All of the above suggestions are really good and I wanted to put my 2 cents in, too! My WIP is an "ancient peoples" story, and I Googled (I am a HUGE fan) stuff like:

1. Names for ancient peoples
2. Names of ancient civilizations
3. Gaelic/Celtic/Norse mythology

And I got tons more than I'll use in this WIP, but it led me to Wikipedia references and Gaelic words and pronunciations, and I squealed like a 6 yr old girl! LOL. Anyway, if you Google "knight" or "swordsman", you will be happily inundated with lots of synonyms or even names. Seriously, do you know how many words there are for "wolf"?

Hope that helps!

PS...forgot about 20000names.com


08-13-2012, 09:55 AM
Man at arms/Men at arms

08-13-2012, 04:55 PM
Dragoons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragoon) could fit your criteria: late Renaissance period, mounted.

Also +1 for:


08-13-2012, 05:27 PM
Someone else was right with the term "dragoons" for covering the transport. For general terms I think that you might look at a good, old translation of "Beowulf". In the original there are at least a deozen terms for soldiers from armsmen to spear-carriers ro swordsmen wor fighters and so on.
Here are some from dictionary.com
"butcher, clipper, dropper, eliminator, enforcer, executioner, guerrilla, gun person, gun (http://thesaurus.com/browse/gun)*, hatchet person, hit person, killer (http://thesaurus.com/browse/killer), liquidator, piece person, plugger, slayer, soldier , torpedo, trigger person"

You'd have to change most of those for the time.

08-13-2012, 05:41 PM
Thanks for all the suggestions!

Cavalry might work, except that the soldiers aren't mounted when the MC first sees them. They're sword fighting with the enemy, so she might not realize they're cavalry. Hmm.

I looked up the etymology of the word "knight", which was interesting. The origins of the word are similar to what I need, soldiers that weren't necessarily landowners. But everyone associates "knight" with the later version, minor noblemen that fought for their king.

Do you all think "soldier" sounds too modern? I would probably describe them as wearing armor and chainmail. (Haven't researched that in depth, yet.) Would the medieval description be enough to keep the reader grounded in a medieval-type world? Or would "soldier" pull you out of the setting, making you envision dragon-hunters with machine guns?

08-13-2012, 05:41 PM
What is the style of fighting & armament? How are they organized? Depending on the answer, there are a variety of options for what to call them, e.g.

Men at arms
Household (X's Household, where X = name or title)
Troopers or X's Troopers

And really, soldier is a very, very old word. There's no reason you should need to avoid it.

(I would avoid "dragoon," though. The function of mounted infantry goes back a long way, but the term "dragoon" was not used till the 16-17c. If you have dragoons, you probably also have musketeers, grenadiers, carabiners, and artillery.)

08-13-2012, 05:53 PM
Medieval encompasses a rather large time period and different regions/cultures called their soldiers by different names.

I understand you want to give a certain flavor to your world, but I would keep it simple with what most readers would understand. Reason, if you use an exotic name for certain troops, then you are going to have to explain and that is time better spent on explaining something more important to the story. IMHO of course.

All the soldiers combined I would just call troops, or the Kings troops. Then you could break it down by what they do as needed; shield-men, archers, lancers, infantry, light cavalry and heavy cavalry, etc, etc, etc.

Good luck with whatever you choose...

08-13-2012, 06:17 PM
Do you all think "soldier" sounds too modern?

I never had much religious education, but I'm pretty sure that the term "soldier" isn't too modern to be referenced in the bible, if that puts your mind at rest. :)

I think you're fine, and it's better to go with a familiar, "invisible" word than something arcane that will make readers pause and draw them out of the story.

08-13-2012, 06:18 PM
How about hermen or harriers?

08-13-2012, 07:35 PM
Given your setting, I'd recommend strongly against picking some archaic term for your soldiers. It's one thing if you're writing second world fantasy and want to give a certain feel, but usually we have these different words because they mean something different. On an abandoned colony world, I'd be distracted by wondering why they've lost all this technology, but retained an archaic word from a different planet.

I mean, imagine a post-apocalyptic United States, a thousand years later, at medieval level tech. Do you think people would be referring to soldiers as "dragoons" rather than...well, soldiers? Or at least knights, which would be a word that'd stick around a long time. Words that refer very obviously to specific weapons or actions would work (archers and cavalry, like mentioned above), but if you pick a really specific archaic word, it's going to refer to a very specific type of fighter from a specific time period and cultural context. That's going to distract the heck out of people.

08-13-2012, 08:07 PM
Ditto the reference to more 'generic' words than era specific words. "Cavalry" or "Horsemen" or "Mounted Troops" instead of Dragoons, or Hussars for instance. Archers, shield bearers, etc. And Sergeants, Captains and Generals are very old terms, not a problem with them at all. "Light" and "Heavy" can denote the quality of their armor and/or mounts.

08-13-2012, 08:35 PM
All right, so I'll just stick with "soldier" for the generic fighters, and perhaps have some archers or cavalry later on.

Thanks for the many suggestions! I appreciate it. :)

Dave Hardy
08-13-2012, 10:55 PM
A lot of terms changed in connotation over time. More than a few acquired meaning in retrospect. The French & English languages have a rich vocabulary here.

Man-at-arms was a W European term for a professional soldier, also sergeant. Later man-at-arms & gendarme became synonyms for knight. Sergeant,IIRC came from an Old French word for servant, just as knight came from a Germanic word for servant (compare with landsknecht).

Of course soldier was hardly unknown, there are references to "knights" as miles, from the Latin for soldier.

There were brigands, who were mercenaries wearing brigandine armor. Compare this with Spanish "ladrone" from Latin "latro" a mercenary or brigand. W Europe also had ribauds or ribalds, another term for hired swords.

So when you picture an army in say 12th c France being filled with sergeants & knights, backed with brigands & ribalds hired for the occasion, you get a picture of what sort of fellows these were. Remember that today's sergeant in service is often tomorrow's brigand in the woods.