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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 serfdom
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • All military conquest involves the ancient practices of serfdom.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • In half an hour I was her abject slave, and proud in my serfdom.

    The Fifth String

    John Philip Sousa
  • All things have their climax, and France is tending swiftly to the climax of her serfdom.

    The Trampling of the Lilies Rafael Sabatini
  • He was the real abolisher of serfdom in Russia, as history will yet prove.

    Memoirs Charles Godfrey Leland
  • The man is not tied to the land, as in serfdom; nor is the land tied to the man, as in a peasantry.

    A Miscellany of Men G. K. Chesterton
  • At the time of the abolition of serfdom in 1861, Russia had hardly any factories.

    The Conquest of Bread Peter Kropotkin
  • They were free to go, for serfdom was disappearing from most of the European countries.

    Society Henry Kalloch Rowe
British Dictionary definitions for serfdom


(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 serfdom

1850, from serf + -dom. Earlier in the same sense was serfage (1775).



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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serfdom 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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