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[surf] /sɜrf/
a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord's land and transferred with it from one owner to another.
a slave.
Origin of serf
1475-85; < Middle French < Latin servus slave
Related forms
serfdom, serfhood, serfage, noun
Can be confused
serf, surf.
1. vassal, villein, peasant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for serf
Historical Examples
  • "I give not the pip of an apple for king or for noble," cried the serf passionately.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Yes; but if he had not been discontented, he would have been a serf still!

    Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Taking the serf's head in his hands, he kissed him on both cheeks.

  • But I will tell you what: my mother's grandfather was a peasant—a serf.

    Under Western Eyes Joseph Conrad
  • The main division, the widest gulf, divided the feudal lord and the serf.

    Socialism John Spargo
  • The serf persecutes the Jew because he is himself persecuted by the nobility.

    Rabbi and Priest

    Milton Goldsmith
  • The slave became the serf; that is, he could be shut in, but not shut out.

    A Short History of England

    G. K. Chesterton
  • Similarly, he could tell his slave to run, but he could only tell his serf to stay.

    A Short History of England

    G. K. Chesterton
  • As to the serf, he did not consider that a boon had been bestowed upon him.

    The Story of Russia R. Van Bergen, M.A.
  • You saw the reaction of the Duke when he realized that Flor was actually a serf?

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
British Dictionary definitions for serf


(esp in medieval Europe) an unfree person, esp one bound to the land. If his lord sold the land, the serf was passed on to the new landlord
Derived Forms
serfdom, serfhood, noun
serflike, adjective
Word Origin
C15: from Old French, from Latin servus a slave; see serve
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
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Word Origin and History for serf

late 15c., "servant, serving-man, slave," from Old French serf "vassal, servant, slave" (12c.), from Latin servum (nominative servus) "slave" (see serve). Fallen from use in original sense by 18c. Meaning "lowest class of cultivators of the soil in continental European countries" is from 1610s. Use by modern writers with reference to medieval Europeans first recorded 1761 (contemporary Anglo-Latin records used nativus, villanus, or servus).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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serf in Culture

serf definition

Under feudalism, a peasant bound to his lord's land and subject to his lord's will, but entitled to his lord's protection.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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