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American Dictionary of the English Language

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Earl


EARL, noun erl.

A British title of nobility, or a nobleman, the third in rank, being next below a marquis, and next above a viscount. The title answers to count [compte] in France, and graaf in Germany. The earl formerly had the government of a shire, and was called shireman. After the conquest earls were called counts, and from them shires have taken the name of counties. earl is now a mere title, unconnected with territorial jurisdiction.