[seer-ee-uh l]
  1. anything published, broadcast, etc., in short installments at regular intervals, as a novel appearing in successive issues of a magazine.
  2. Library Science. a publication in any medium issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designation and intended to be continued indefinitely.
  1. published in installments or successive parts: a serial story.
  2. pertaining to such publication.
  3. pertaining to, arranged in, or consisting of a series.
  4. occurring in a series rather than simultaneously: serial marriage; serial murders.
  5. effecting or producing a series of similar actions: The police think a serial killer is responsible for five homicides in this city last month.
  6. Computers.
    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).
  7. 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 formsse·ri·al·ly, adverbnon·se·ri·al, noun, adjectivenon·se·ri·al·ly, adverb
Can be confusedcereal serial Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for serial killer

serial killer

  1. a person who carries out a series of murders


  1. a novel, play, etc, presented in separate instalments at regular intervals
  2. a publication, usually regularly issued and consecutively numbered
  1. of, relating to, or resembling a series
  2. published or presented as a serial
  3. of or relating to such publication or presentation
  4. computing of or operating on items of information, instructions, etc, in the order in which they occurCompare parallel (def. 5)
  5. of, relating to, or using the techniques of serialism
  6. 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 numbersSee also ordering
Derived Formsserially, adverb

Word Origin for serial

C19: from New Latin seriālis, from Latin seriēs series
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 serial killer



"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