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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for serfdom
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In no part of Germany, for instance, at the close of the eighteenth century, was serfdom as yet completely abolished.

  • At the time of the abolition of serfdom in 1861, Russia had hardly any factories.

    The Conquest of Bread Peter Kropotkin
  • My conflict with a moribund group of old adherents of serfdom; their accusation of demagogy.

    The Russian Turmoil Anton Ivanovich Denikin
  • They were free to go, for serfdom was disappearing from most of the European countries.

    Society Henry Kalloch Rowe
  • William Newman was probably so-called because he was a new-comer, or was lately emancipated from serfdom as a “new man.”

    The Annals of Willenhall Frederick William Hackwood
  • All military conquest involves the ancient practices of serfdom.

    Mountain Meditations L. Lind-af-Hageby
  • The lords tried to drag them back into serfdom; they tried to force them by law to take the old wage.

    A Short History of Wales Owen M. Edwards
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 American Heritage® 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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