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.