- a farm laborer; peasant
- a surly, ill-bred person; boor
- a selfish or mean person
Origin of churlMiddle English cherl ; from Old English ceorl, peasant, freeman: for Indo-European base see corn
- A rude, boorish person. See Synonyms at boor.
- A miserly person.
- a. A ceorl.b. A medieval English peasant.
Origin of churlMiddle English, from Old English ceorl, peasant. Word History: The Old English word ceorl (in which the c was pronounced (ch) as in modern English churl) designated a freeman of the lowest class—one who had a social position above a slave but below a thane. Ceorl comes from Germanic *karilaz, whose basic meaning is “old man.” In Finnish, which is not a Germanic language, the Germanic word was borrowed and survives almost unchanged as karilas, “old man.” The Old Norse descendant of the Germanic word, karl, means “old man, servant,” and the Old High German equivalent, karal, meaning “man, lover, husband,” has become the name Karl. The Germanic word also entered Old French as Charles, from which we have the name Charles. The Medieval Latin form Carolus is based on the Old High German karal. The fame of Carolus Magnus, “Charles the Great,” or Charlemagne, added luster to the name Carolus, and the Slavic languages later borrowed the name as their general word for “king,” korol’ in Russian—and so, despite the gulf between a king and a churl, the Russsian korol and the Old English ceorl are related.
From Middle English churl, cherl, cheorl, from Old English ċeorl (“a freeman of the lowest class, a churl, a countryman, husbandman, a hero, husband, man, male person, a man of inferior class, peasant, rustic, commoner, layman”), from Proto-Germanic *karilaz (“man, elder”), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵera-, *ǵrā- (“grown-up, old, mature”). Cognate with Scots churl (“a churl, a rustic”), North Frisian tzierl, tjierl, tsjerl (“fellow, man, churl”), West Frisian tsjirl (“fellow, churl”), Dutch kerel (“man, churl, fellow”), Low German kerl, kerel, kirl (“man, fellow, churl”), German Kerl (“man, fellow”), Swedish karl (“man, fellow”), Icelandic karl (“a male”). The deprecating sense develops by 1300. The variant carl, carle (without derogatory connotation) is a loan from the Old Norse cognate. See carl, carle.