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free tribesmen in England during the early Middle Ages who constituted, along with the earls, the basis of Anglo-Saxon society.
The ceorls lived in large families that held rather extensive parcels of land called hides. From the ninth to the 11th century the process of feudalization reduced most of the ceorls to serfdom; however, the top layer of ceorls merged with the petty lords. The term “ceorl” was almost completely out of use by the 11th century.