From Middle English erle, erl, from Old English eorl, from Proto-Germanic *erlaz (compare Old Norse jarl, Old High German and Old Saxon erl), from Proto-Germanic *erōną, *arōną (compare Old Norse jara (“fight, battle”)), from Proto-Indo-European *h₁er- (compare Latin orior (“to rise, get up”), Ancient Greek ὄρνυμι (órnumi, “to urge, incite”), Avestan 𐬆𐬭𐬆𐬥𐬀𐬊𐬌𐬙𐬌 (ərənaoiti, “to move”), Sanskrit ऋणोति (ṛṇóti, “to arise, reach, move, attack”)). Also displaced unrelated but similar ealdorman (“alderman”).
earl (plural earls)
- (nobility) A British or Irish nobleman next in rank above a viscount and below a marquess; equivalent to a European count. A female using the style is termed a countess.
- (entomology) Any of various nymphalid butterflies of the genus Tanaecia. Other butterflies in this genus are called counts and viscounts.