churl

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English churl, cherl, cheorl (person not of the nobility or clergy; bondsman, serf, villein; peasant; (also figuratively) servant, slave; unlearned or unrefined person, boor, ignoramus; chap, fellow, man; husband) [and other forms],[1] from Old English ċeorl (freeman ranking below a þegn but above a thrall; commoner, peasant; countryman, husbandman; man; husband), from Proto-West Germanic *kerl, from Proto-Germanic *karilaz (elder; man), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵerh₂- (to grow old; to mature).[2] Doublet of carl, carle.

Sense 2.1 (“rough, surly, ill-bred person”) is probably an extension of sense 1 (“free peasant of the lowest rank; person without royal or noble status; bondman, serf”) and sense 2.2 (“countryman, peasant, rustic”). Sense 2.3 (“person who is stingy”) was influenced by Nabal, who is described in the King James Version of the Bible as “churlish and evil in his doings”;[3] when Nabal, a rich man, is asked to give provisions to David’s men, he replies, “Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? There be many servants nowadays that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” (1 Samuel 25:3 and 10–11; spelling modernized).[2][4]

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

churl (plural churls)

  1. (feudalism, obsolete except historical)
    1. A free peasant (as opposed to a serf) of the lowest rank, below an earl and a thane; a freeman; also (more generally), a person without royal or noble status; a commoner.
    2. A bondman or serf.
  2. (by extension)
    1. (derogatory) A rough, surly, ill-bred person; a boor. [from 14th c.]
    2. (archaic) A countryman, a peasant, a rustic.
      Synonym: carl
    3. (archaic) A person who is stingy, especially with money; a selfish miser, a niggard.
      Synonym: (Scotland, obsolete) carl
    4. (Theodism) A freedman, ranked below a thane but above a thrall.

Derived terms[edit]

Translations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ chē̆rl, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 churl, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; “churl, n.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  3. ^ The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], 1611, OCLC 964384981, 1 Samuel 25:3, column 2: “Now the name of the man was Nabal, [] the man was churliſh and euill in his doings, []”.
  4. ^ The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], 1611, OCLC 964384981, 1 Samuel 25:10–11: “Who is Dauid? and who is the ſonne of Jeſſe? There bee many ſeruants now a daies that breake away euery man from his maſter. Shall I then take my bread and my water, and my fleſh that I haue killed for my ſhearers, and giue it vnto men, whom I know not whence they bee?”

Further reading[edit]

Anagrams[edit]