Definition of earl in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈər(ə)l/


A British nobleman ranking above a viscount and below a marquess.
Example sentences
  • Attendants of an earl, viscount or baron wore six rows of curls on state wigs and five on house wigs.
  • They all sat in a row, ranged according to their rank - kings and princes and dukes and earls and counts and barons and knights.
  • None of the dogs belonging to either the duke and duchess or the earl and countess ever barked.


Old English eorl, of Germanic origin. The word earl originally denoted a man of noble rank, as opposed to a churl; also the word denoted specifically a hereditary nobleman directly above the rank of thane. It was later an equivalent of jarl and, under Canute and his successors, applied to the governor of divisions of England such as Wessex and Mercia. In the late Old English period, as the Saxon court came increasingly under Norman influence, the word was applied to any nobleman bearing the continental title of count (see count2).

  • In Saxon days an earl was a man of noble rank, as opposed to a churl (source of churlish), or ordinary peasant, or a thane, who was a man granted land by the king. At the time of King Canute's rule in the early 11th century, the governor of a large division of England such as Wessex was called an earl. As the court started to be influenced by the Normans, the word was applied to any nobleman who held the continental title of count. See also duke

Words that rhyme with earl

birl, burl, churl, curl, Erle, furl, girl, herl, hurl, knurl, merle, pas seul, pearl, purl, Searle, skirl, squirl, swirl, twirl, whirl, whorl

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: earl

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