ceorl

noun
\ˈchā-ˌȯrl \

Definition of ceorl 

: a freeman of the lowest rank in Anglo-Saxon England

Did You Know?

In Old English, ceorl referred to freemen who ranked above the servile classes but below the nobility. In this sense, ceorl is now primarily encountered in historical writings where, to this day, it has maintained its Old English spelling. The word also evolved, however, into a form that will be more familiar to most English speakers today. In Middle English, ceorl took on the spelling churl (among others), and with that variant spelling it began to develop disparaging senses by the early 14th century. Churl can still be used to refer to the historical rank of ceorl or as a general term for a medieval peasant, but it is now primarily encountered in the senses of "a rude ill-bred person" or "a stingy morose person."

First Known Use of ceorl

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ceorl

Old English — more at churl

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ceorl

Listen to Our Podcast about ceorl

Dictionary Entries near ceorl

century

century plant

CEO

ceorl

cèpe

cephal-

cephala

Statistics for ceorl

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ceorl

The first known use of ceorl was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

More from Merriam-Webster on ceorl

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ceorl

Comments on ceorl

What made you want to look up ceorl? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

required by fashion, etiquette, or custom

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!