“Samurai: (from Japanese. “those who serve”) Warrior retainers of Japan’s daimyo (feudal lords). Prominent from the 12th century, they were not a separate class until Hideyoshi limited the right to bear arms to them, after which they became a hereditary caste. Their two swords were their badge. Their conduct was regulated by Bushido (Warrior’s Way), a strict code that emphasized the qualities of loyalty, bravery, and endurance. Their training from childhood was Spartan. Their ultimate duty when defeated or dishonored was seppuku, ritual self-disembowelment.”
Excerpted from: Wright, Edmund, Ed. The Oxford Desk Encyclopedia of World History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.