South African Dutch, Dutch, German, AfrikaansShow more South African Dutch, from Dutch, perhaps from German knecht knight, in the original sense of ‘servant’, especially a military servant. (The modern Afrikaans form is kneg).
obs. except in historical contexts
A bondman or man-servant, usually seconded from the army to work as a farm overseer or foreman.Cf. slagter’s knecht (see slagter sense b). See also mandoor.
1798Lady A. BarnardLett. to Henry Dundas (1973) 106We only regretted that we could not make our knecht sit down at table with us, and pass him off as a cousin, — but a trick of this sort would never have been forgiven in this place, had we lived for two thousand years.
1850R.G.G. CummingHunter’s LifeI. 5The trader then instructs his knecht, or head servant, to make a parade of the goods.
1861P.B. BorcherdsAuto-Biog. Mem. 46Obliged to take up quarters at a shoemaker’s, one Mulder, who had a large family, besides some visitors, butcher’s knechts or travelling servants.
1913C. PettmanAfricanderisms 269Knecht, (D. knecht, a man-servant. Etymologically this is the same word as the English ‘knight’.) An overseer, a head servant.
1921H.J. Mandelbrotetr. ofO.F. Mentzel’s Descr. of Cape of G.H.I. 164We come next to the class of soldier who does not perform any military duties and who is not in receipt of pay, but who is, nevertheless, required to serve the specified period, and who is bound to step into the ranks at a moment’s notice. These are either ‘Knechte’ or schoolmasters. Whenever a farmer finds that he cannot supervise his whole farm by himself, or if he owns several farms, he usually applies to the Company for an overseer of the slaves and general estate manager. A suitable man is selected from the soldiers in the garrison..; he is styled a ‘Knecht’.
1928E.A. WalkerHist. of S. Afr. 72Others..were men set free to work as knechts or overseers of farms or as meesters or both, subject to recall to the colours at a moment’s notice.
1955A. DeliusYoung Trav. in S. Afr. 72The young man..informed them in cautious, shy English that he was a ‘kneg’ — a farm foreman.
1977T.R.H. DavenportS. Afr.: Mod. Hist. 18To cheapen its costs it (sc. the Company) released potential settlers from its service, or encouraged its servants to hire themselves to free farmers as Knechts.
1983Daily Dispatch 22 Apr. 25My father lost his farm and became a knecht, looking after someone else’s for £3 a month and rations.
1989Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 53Other supervisors were the knechte, unskilled European labourers or soldiers of the lowest rank, who were not far above the slaves in the social hierarchy.
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