Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary

    An English title of nobility below that of a marquis and above that of a viscount.

  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    A title of nobility, formerly the highest in England, now the third, ranking between a marquis and a viscount, and corresponding with the French "comte" and the German "graf." The title originated with the Saxons, and is the most ancient of the English peerage. William the Conqueror first made this title hereditary, giving it in fee to his nobles; and alloting them for the support of their state the third penny out of the sheriff's court, issuing out of all pleas of the shire, whence they had their ancient title "shiremen." At present the title is accompanied by no territory, private or judicial rights, but merely confers nobility and an hereditary seat in the house of lords. Wharton.
    —Earl marshal of England. A great officer of state who had anciently several courts under his jurisdiction, as the court of chivalry and the court of honor. Under him is the-herald's office, or college of arms. He was also a judge of the Marshalsea court, now abolished. This office is of great antiquity, and has been for several ages hereditary in the family of the (Howards. 3 Bl. Comm. 68, 103 ; 3 Steph. Comm. 335, note.
    —Earldom. The dignity or jurisdiction of an earl. The dignity only remains now, as the jurisdiction has been given over to the sheriff. 1 Bl. Comm. 339.