The English word 'knight' is used as a translation of the Elvish term roquen, the higher of at least two ranks of the soldiery of the Dúnedain. After training, warriors began their military career at the rank of ohtar (simply 'soldier'), but at some point in their career they could anticipate promotion to a second tier, that of roquen or knight.
We do not know how widespread this military arrangement was. Our only specific account1 refers to the army of Isildur at the time of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields in the early Third Age. Isildur's Númenórean descent implies that knights were found among the armies of Númenor during the Second Age, and we have even earlier accounts. For example, one reference exists to King Thingol having 'knights' during the First Age, so the tradition of the roquen may date back to the ancient Elves of Middle-earth.
That is, our only specific account of the rank of roquen among Men, but there is an account from the First Age of Thingol giving Túrin '...a place among the knights of my sword...' (Unfinished Tales Part One II, Narn i Hîn Húrin). This does not seem to be equivalent to the later usage of 'knight' (there's no suggestion that Túrin was a mounted soldier) and is probably intended simply as a convenient term for a royally appointed warrior.
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