a nobleman of England ranking below a marquis, and above a viscount. The rank of an earl corresponds to that of a count (comte) in France, and graf in Germany. Hence the wife of an earl is still called countess. See count.
Origin: oe. Eorl, erl, as. Eorl man, noble; akin to os. Erl boy, man, Icel. Jarl nobleman, count, and possibly to gr. Male, Zend arshan man. Cf. Jarl.
(Science: zoology) The needlefish.