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[ser-if] /ˈsɛr ɪf/
noun, Printing.
a smaller line used to finish off a main stroke of a letter, as at the top and bottom of M.
Also, especially British, ceriph.
Origin of serif
1835-45; perhaps < Dutch schreef line (in writing), akin to schrijven to write Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for serif
Historical Examples
  • A very thin line or serif is apt to be lost in the background.

  • serif—The short cross-line or tick at the end of the main strokes in roman letters.

    Type A. A. Stewart
  • Then start similarly at the extreme right-hand point of the bottom serif, and cut the right side of the stroke.

British Dictionary definitions for serif


(printing) a small line at the extremities of a main stroke in a type character
Word Origin
C19: perhaps from Dutch schreef dash, probably of Germanic origin, compare Old High German screvōn to engrave
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 serif

in typography, 1841, earlier ceref (1827); see sans-serif.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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