a British nobleman ranking above a viscount and below a marquessthe wife or widow of an earl is called a countess
Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, compiled by the
editors of Webster’s New World Dictionaries. Copyright © 2010 by Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Word origin of 'earl'ME erl, nobleman, count < OE eorl, warrior, akin to ON jarl, leader, noble