Definition of housecarl in US English:


(also housecarle)


  • A member of the bodyguard of a Danish or English king or noble.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We worked our way north; a single covered wagon and seventeen housecarls mounted upon lamas.’
    • ‘There is no reason to believe that the tasks which Cnut's housecarls were called upon to perform were fundamentally different.’
    • ‘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.’


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