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See more synonyms for churl on Thesaurus.com
  1. a rude, boorish, or surly person.
  2. a peasant; rustic.
  3. a niggard; miser: He was a churl in his affections.
  4. English History. a freeman of the lowest rank.
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Origin of churl

before 900; Middle English cherl, Old English ceorl man, freeman; cognate with Dutch kerel, German Kerl; akin to carl
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for churl


  1. a surly ill-bred person
  2. archaic a farm labourer
  3. a variant spelling of ceorl
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Word Origin

Old English ceorl; related to Old Norse karl, Middle Low German kerle, Greek gerōn old man
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for churl


Old English ceorl "peasant, freeman, man without rank," from Proto-Germanic *kerlaz, *karlaz (cf. Old Frisian zerl "man, fellow," Middle Low German kerle, Dutch kerel "freeman of low degree," German Kerl "man, husband," Old Norse karl "old man, man").

It had various meaning in early Middle English, including "man of the common people," "a country man," "husbandman," "free peasant;" by 1300, it meant "bondman, villain," also "fellow of low birth or rude manners." For words for "common man" that acquire an insulting flavor over time, compare boor, villain. In this case, however, the same word also has come to mean "king" in many languages (e.g. Lithuanian karalius, Czech kral, Polish krol) via Charlemagne.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper