- 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.
- a male given name: from the old English word meaning “noble.”
- (in the British Isles) a nobleman ranking below a marquess and above a viscountFemale equivalent: countess
- (in Anglo-Saxon England) a royal governor of any of the large divisions of the kingdom, such as Wessex
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.)).