: ceorl
: a medieval peasant
: a rude ill-bred person
: a stingy morose person

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
Recent Examples on the Web The churl’s view. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, 11 July 2021 But the cartoonish executive in Episode 1 will require a Grinch-like turnaround to become anything but a clownish churl. Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Mar. 2022 Only a churl would lament the existence of these testaments to the out-of-nowhere potential of a great pop hit. Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'churl.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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).

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near churl

Cite this Entry

“Churl.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/churl. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a peasant of the Middle Ages
: a rude or grumpy person
churlishly adverb
churlishness noun

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