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.
(in Anglo-Saxon England) a governor of one of the great divisions of England, including East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, and Wessex.

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

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a male given name: from the old English word meaning “noble.”
Also, Earle.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
earl (ɜːl)
1.  Female equivalent: countess (in the British Isles) a nobleman ranking below a marquess and above a viscount
2.  (in Anglo-Saxon England) a royal governor of any of the large divisions of the kingdom, such as Wessex
[Old English eorl; related to Old Norse jarl chieftain, Old Saxon erl man]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E. eorl "nobleman, warrior" (contrasted with ceorl "churl"), from P.Gmc. *erlo-z, of uncertain origin. In Anglo-Saxon poetry, "a warrior, a brave man;" in later O.E., a Danish under-king (equivalent of O.N. jarl), then one of the viceroys under the Danish dynasty in England. After 1066 adopted as
the equivalent of L. comes (see count (n.)).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences for earl
The character sheriff earl mcgraw appears in both kill bill, vol.
The first lord of the admiralty, earl spencer, fainted on hearing the news.
External links more about earl grey on the downing street website.
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