A warrior is a person experienced in or capable of engaging in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society that recognizes a separate warrior class. According to the Random House Dictionary, the term warrior has two meanings. The first literal use refers to “someone engaged or experienced in warfare.” The second figurative use refers to “a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.”
In tribal societies engaging in endemic warfare, warriors often form a caste or class of their own. In feudalism, the vassals essentially form a military or warrior class, even if in actual warfare, peasants may be called to fight as well. In some societies, warfare may be so central that the entire people (or, more often, large parts of the male population) may be considered warriors, for example in the Iron Age Germanic tribes or the Medieval Rajput and Sikhs.
Professional warriors are people who are paid money for engaging in military campaigns, and fall into one of two categories: Soldiers, when fighting on behalf of their own state; or mercenaries, when offering their services commercially and unrelated to their own nationality. The classification of somebody who is involved in acts of violence may be a matter of perspective, and there may be disagreement whether a given person is a “legitimate” combatant, or a hooligan, gangster, pirate, terrorist, rebel, brigand or bandit.
In many societies in which a specialized warrior class exists, specific codes of conduct (ethical codes) are established to ensure that the warrior class is not corrupted or otherwise dangerous to the rest of society. Common features include valuing honour in the forms of faith, loyalty and courage.
Examples include the following:
- Ethical codes of the early Germanic Peoples, as well as Prussian virtues
- medieval knights‘ code of chivalry;
- Kshatriya code of Dharma in India;
- values of the ancient Armenian army;
- Khalsa code of saint Soldiers in Sikhism;
- Japan‘s samurai class, which uses a warrior code known as Bushido (The Way Of The Warrior); and
- Xiá in China.
A warrior culture is a culture that heavily emphasizes battle and war and greatly prizes feats of arms. Warrior cultures often incorporate a cult of personality around military leaders, are ruled by an elite warrior class, and may have a warfare-based economy.
Feudal societies are not always warrior cultures. Although feats of arms are prized, battle and war are not necessarily emphasized. In some feudal societies, the soldiery was conscripted from the peasant class.
Many cultures and states have castes, estates or social groups dedicated to warfare. This includes the Khalsa and kshatriya caste in modern and ancient India, the samurai class in feudal Japan, and nobility (especially knighthood) in feudal Europe. Often the warrior class is highly valued in society
Women as warriors
There are references to occasional female warriors from antiquity, mostly as exceptions. Such an example is the famous warrior Queen Isabella de Castile who married King Fernando de Aragon. They combined a queendom and a kingdom along with the rest of the Spanish provinces to create the nation of Spain.
Some prehistoric religious traditions featured deities, who included a fierce warrior goddess prior to displacement by warrior gods. The lioness often is associated with the goddesses. Observation of the cooperative hunting techniques of lionesses may have influenced the symbolic association. A purported group of fighting women is the legend of the Amazons, recorded in Classical Greek mythology.
A spiritual warrior is a person who bravely battles with the universal enemy, self-ignorance (avidya), the ultimate source of suffering according to dharmic philosophies. The term is applied in religious and metaphysical writing. There are self-described spiritual warriors. The spiritual warrior can be described as an archetype character on a journey for self discovery to benefit others.