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[seer-ee-uh l] /ˈsɪər i əl/
anything published, broadcast, etc., in short installments at regular intervals, as a novel appearing in successive issues of a magazine.
Library Science. a publication in any medium issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designation and intended to be continued indefinitely.
published in installments or successive parts:
a serial story.
pertaining to such publication.
pertaining to, arranged in, or consisting of a series.
occurring in a series rather than simultaneously:
serial marriage; serial murders.
effecting or producing a series of similar actions:
The police think a serial killer is responsible for five homicides in this city last month.
  1. of or relating to the apparent or actual performance of data-processing operations one at a time (distinguished from parallel).
  2. of or relating to the transmission or processing of each part of a whole in sequence, as each bit of a byte or each byte of a computer word (distinguished from parallel).
Music. of, relating to, or composed in serial technique.
Origin of serial
From the New Latin word seriālis, dating back to 1835-45. See series, -al1
Related forms
serially, adverb
nonserial, noun, adjective
nonserially, adverb
Can be confused
cereal, serial. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for serial
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But the whole of active life is a serial and coordinated business.

  • It's a serial story, and will be continued in our next issue.

  • He turned to the serial story and began to read the synopsis.

    The Girl on the Boat Pelham Grenville Wodehouse
  • The night bombarder has been telling me this yarn in serial form.

    High Adventure James Norman Hall
  • Suppose my serial story should be accepted and they should send me a check.

    Old Ebenezer

    Opie Read
British Dictionary definitions for serial


a novel, play, etc, presented in separate instalments at regular intervals
a publication, usually regularly issued and consecutively numbered
of, relating to, or resembling a series
published or presented as a serial
of or relating to such publication or presentation
(computing) of or operating on items of information, instructions, etc, in the order in which they occur Compare parallel (sense 5)
of, relating to, or using the techniques of serialism
(logic, maths) (of a relation) connected, transitive, and asymmetric, thereby imposing an order on all the members of the domain, as less than on the natural numbers See also ordering
Derived Forms
serially, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from New Latin seriālis, from Latin seriēsseries
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 serial

"coming in regular succession," 1840, from series + -al (1); popularized in reference to Dickens' novels, published one part at a time in periodicals (as opposed to all at once in a book). Found to be a useful word and given wide application. Serial number, indicating position in a series, first recorded 1866, originally of papers, packages, etc.; of soldiers from 1918. Serial killer is first attested 1981 (in relation to John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy), though serial had been used in connection with murders since the early 1960s. Related: Serially.


1846, from serial (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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