\ ˈchər(-ə)l How to pronounce churl (audio) \

Definition of churl

1 : ceorl
2 : a medieval peasant
4a : a rude ill-bred person
b : a stingy morose person

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Examples of churl in a Sentence

as far as he was concerned, anyone from outside the city was a backwater churl don't bother asking for donations at that house—the churl who lives there believes that charity begins and ends at home

First Known Use of churl

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for churl

Middle English cherl "non-noble person (whether free or bound), ill-bred person, boor, fellow," going back to Old English ceorl "male person, man, married man, countryman, member of the lowest class of freemen," going back to Germanic *kerla- "man, freeman" (whence also Old Frisian tzerl, tzirl, kerl "man, servant," Middle Dutch kerel, kerl "freeman below the rank of knight"), with a by-form *karla- (whence Old High German karl, charel "man, husband," Old Norse karl "man, commoner, old man"), of uncertain origin

Note: Compared with Tocharian B śrāy "adult male (?)" (the stem śrān- is apparently secondary; see D. Adams, A Dictionary of Tocharian B, Rodopi, 2013, p. 705) and further to Indo-European *ǵerh2- "become old, ripen" (whence Greek gérōn "old man," Sanskrit jarant-, járan "old, decayed"—see geriatric entry 1). Guus Kroonen (Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic, Brill, 2013) reconstructs a proto-paradigm for the Germanic noun with a suffixal -l- and root ablaut e-ø-o; however, even if parallels for such a formation exist, an etymon "old man, elder" is a questionable starting point for the attested senses "man, low-ranking freeman," etc. The Medieval Latin name Carolus, associated with Charles Martel and later Carolingian rulers, has traditionally been identified with Germanic *karla-, though some see it as a Latinization of a Germanic name *hari-ol- (but cf. Cearl, name of an early Mercian king mentioned by Bede).

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Time Traveler for churl

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

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Cite this Entry

“Churl.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with churl Encyclopedia article about churl

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