Definition of housecarl in English:


(also housecarle)


  • (before the Norman Conquest) a member of the bodyguard of a Danish or English king or noble.

    • ‘There is no reason to believe that the tasks which Cnut's housecarls were called upon to perform were fundamentally different.’
    • ‘We worked our way north; a single covered wagon and seventeen housecarls mounted upon lamas.’
    • ‘With the morale of the English troops shattered by the death of their leader, the battle ended in defeat for the English, although the housecarls and thegns continued to fight to their deaths.’
    • ‘In addition there were small standing forces, usually household troops such as the housecarls of the Saxon kings or the Yeomen of the Guard, formed by Henry VII in 1485.’
    • ‘Harold had kept his bodyguards - the housecarls - with him but they could not stop the onslaught and Harold and his men were slaughtered by the Normans.’


Late Old English hūscarl, from Old Norse húskarl ‘manservant’, (plural) ‘retinue, bodyguard’, from hús ‘house’ + karl ‘man’.