(redirected from Earls)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Idioms, Wikipedia.


1. (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



in early medieval England, a member of the hereditary nobility, as distinguished from an ordinary freeman, or ceorl. The average size of an earl’s holding was 40 hides. As Anglo-Saxon society became feudalized, the earls, in the late seventh century, became part of the general landed aristocracy required to render state service, the thanes. Since the 11th century the term “earl” has designated a noble rank corresponding to that of count.

References in classic literature ?
daughter of the Earl of Castlemouldy, who condescended to marry the head of the firm), the tradesmen of the neighbourhood could not pay her more honour than they invariably showed to the gentle young widow, when she passed by their doors, or made her humble purchases at their shops.
The Earl of Essex, when he beheld them pause in their assembled force, dashed the rowels into his charger's sides, and galloped backwards and forwards to array his followers, in opposition to a band so formidable.
Notwithstanding all this lip-loyalty,'' said Ivanhoe to the Earl of Essex, ``it was well the King took the precaution to bring thee with him, noble Earl, and so many of thy trusty followers.
I am, sire, though there be some who say that Robin Hood's father was formerly the rightful Earl of Huntingdon.
cried the new Earl of Huntingdon, drawing the old Earl's daughter close to him.
Yet I noted, and was glad to note, evidence of a far deeper feeling than mere friendly regard, in her meeting with Arthur though this was, as I gathered, an almost daily occurrence--and the conversation between them, in which the Earl and I were only occasional sharers, had an ease and a spontaneity rarely met with except between very old friends: and, as I knew that they had not known each other for a longer period than the summer which was now rounding into autumn, I felt certain that 'Love,' and Love alone, could explain the phenomenon.
How convenient it would be," Lady Muriel laughingly remarked, a propos of my having insisted on saving her the trouble of carrying a cup of tea across the room to the Earl, "if cups of tea had no weight at all
Alas, proud Earl, Thou dost forget thyself, remembering me
That knowing no cause of quarrel or of feud Between the Earl Politian and himself.
The retinue of Earl Dorm was not strong numerically--the household being, to judge from appearances, one that had seen better days; but it struck Agravaine that what it lacked in numbers it made up in toughness.
and the King left the apartment followed by his gentlemen, all of whom had drawn away from the Earl of Leicester when it became apparent that the royal displeasure was strong against him.
So Godrich, Earl of Cornwall, was chosen to guard the Princess.