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[si-ral-yoh, -rahl-]
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noun, plural se·ragl·ios.
  1. the part of a Muslim house or palace in which the wives and concubines are secluded; harem.
  2. a Turkish palace, especially of the sultan.

Origin of seraglio

1575–85; < Italian serraglio < Persian sarāy palace; sense development in Italian perhaps influenced by serrare to lock up
Also called se·rail [suh-rahy, -rahyl, -reyl] /səˈraɪ, -ˈraɪl, -ˈreɪl/.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for seraglio

Historical Examples

  • The Pacha had sent his subordinate with a guard to transfer him to the Seraglio.

    Dreamers of the Ghetto

    I. Zangwill

  • He led the way until they came to a gallery that overlooked the seraglio.

  • What cry was that which startles the seraglio from its siesta?

  • You have turned your house into a seraglio, as birds are kept in a cage.

  • Woman was no longer the captive of the seraglio, nor the chronicler of small beer.

    Hopes and Fears

    Charlotte M. Yonge

British Dictionary definitions for seraglio


serail (səˈraɪ, -ˈraɪl, -ˈreɪl)

noun plural -raglios or -rails
  1. the harem of a Muslim house or palace
  2. a sultan's palace, esp in the former Turkish empire
  3. the wives and concubines of a Muslim

Word Origin

C16: from Italian serraglio animal cage, from Medieval Latin serrāculum bolt, from Latin sera a door bar; associated also with Turkish seray palace
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for seraglio


"harem," also the name of a former palace of the sultan in Istanbul, 1580s, from Italian seraglio, alteration of Turkish saray "palace, court," from Persian sara'i "palace, inn," from Iranian base *thraya- "to protect" (cf. Avestan thrayeinti "they protect"), from PIE *tra-, variant form of root *tere- "to cross over, pass through, overcome" (see through).

The Italian word probably reflects folk etymology influence of serraglio "enclosure, cage," from Medieval Latin serraculum "bung, stopper" (see serried).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper