Coronet of mediatised prince of the HRE
An earl /ɜːrl/ is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon in origin, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced by duke (hertig/hertug/hertog). In later medieval Britain, it became the equivalent of the continental count (in England in the earlier period, it was more akin to a duke; in Scotland it assimilated the concept of mormaer). However, earlier in Scandinavia, jarl could also mean a sovereign prince. For example, the rulers of several of the petty kingdoms of Norway had the title of jarl and in many cases they had no less power than their neighbours who had the title of king. Alternative names for the rank equivalent to "Earl/Count" in the nobility structure are used in other countries, such as the hakushaku of the post-restoration Japanese Imperial era.

In modern Britain, an earl is a member of the peerage, ranking below a marquess and above a viscount. A feminine form of earl never developed; instead, countess is used.

The term earl has been compared to the name of the Heruli, and to runic erilaz. Proto-Norse eril, or the later Old Norse jarl, came to signify the rank of a leader.

The Norman-derived equivalent count (from Latin comes) was not introduced following the Norman conquest of England though countess was and is used for the female title. Geoffrey Hughes writes, "It is a likely speculation that the Norman French title 'Count' was abandoned in England in favour of the Germanic 'Earl' precisely because of the uncomfortable phonetic proximity to cunt".

In the other languages of Britain and Ireland, the term is translated as: Welsh iarll, Irish and Scottish Gaelic iarla, Scots yarl or yerl, Cornish yurl.

An earl has the title Earl of when the title originates from a placename, or Earl when the title comes from a surname. In either case, he is referred to as Lord , and his wife as Lady . A countess who holds an earldom in her own right also uses Lady , but her husband does not have a title (unless he has one in his own right).

This page was last edited on 20 March 2018, at 04:50.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl under CC BY-SA license.

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