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See more synonyms for serf on Thesaurus.com
  1. 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.
  2. a slave.
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Origin of serf

1475–85; < Middle French < Latin servus slave
Related formsserf·dom, serf·hood, serf·age, noun
Can be confusedserf surf


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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.

  • He was the real abolisher of serfdom in Russia, as history will yet prove.


    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

British Dictionary definitions for serfdom


  1. (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
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Derived Formsserfdom or serfhood, nounserflike, 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

Word Origin and History for serfdom


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

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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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

serfdom in Culture


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

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