June 16, 2009

Noble vs. Rude

The construction of the pair of words, though unrelated they may seem, churl, meaning "bondman, villain," and earl, meaning "nobleman, warrior," is quite curious. To make things clear, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the Old English forms of these two words were eorl and ceorl respectively. Such a formation as adding a "c-" in front and invert the meaning seems rare. May it be related to the prefix "contra-"?

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