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See more synonyms for earl on Thesaurus.com
  1. a British nobleman of a rank below that of marquis and above that of viscount: called count for a time after the Norman conquest. The wife of an earl is a countess.
  2. (in Anglo-Saxon England) a governor of one of the great divisions of England, including East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, and Wessex.
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Origin of earl

before 900; Middle English erl, Old English eorl; cognate with Old Saxon erl man, Old Norse jarl chieftain


or Earle

  1. a male given name: from the old English word meaning “noble.”
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for earl

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The latest proprietor of those times was James, Earl of Derby.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • "My aunt will treat the affair like the sensible woman she is," replied the earl.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • "Nor for the honor of Scotland either," cried the Earl of Angus.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • I like him; I should like him even if he were not an Earl—and his name a career.

  • I didn't think it necessary to correct him as to my refusal of the Earl.

British Dictionary definitions for earl


  1. (in the British Isles) a nobleman ranking below a marquess and above a viscountFemale equivalent: countess
  2. (in Anglo-Saxon England) a royal governor of any of the large divisions of the kingdom, such as Wessex
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Word Origin

Old English eorl; related to Old Norse jarl chieftain, Old Saxon erl 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 earl


Old English eorl "brave man, warrior, leader, chief" (contrasted with ceorl "churl"), from Proto-Germanic *erlo-z, of uncertain origin.

In Anglo-Saxon poetry, "a warrior, a brave man;" in later Old English, "nobleman," especially a Danish under-king (equivalent of cognate Old Norse jarl), then one of the viceroys under the Danish dynasty in England. After 1066 adopted as the equivalent of Latin comes (see count (n.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper