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[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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for serf
Historical Examples
  • Though born a serf, he is already, at middle age, an important personage in the Russian commercial world.

    Russia Donald Mackenzie Wallace
  • Flor, the serf—now Florel Derikuna, swordsman at large—was in a new land.

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
  • So saying, without another word he turned and rode back, while the serf strode off towards the chateau.

    Jack Archer G. A. Henty
  • You saw the reaction of the Duke when he realized that Flor was actually a serf?

    Millennium Everett B. Cole
  • Den-Brao, a serf like his father, was since his youth employed in a neighboring stone quarry.

    The Infant's Skull Eugne Sue
  • Not a line that a serf might not have written to an empress.

    The Lady of Lyons Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • At Woolston in 1357 a serf "recessit a dominio et dereliquit terram suam."

    The Enclosures in England Harriett Bradley
  • I'm sure you'd never stoop to second fiddle,And—I might shirk The part of serf.

  • They would like to imitate their betters and live a life of ease and luxury; as though a serf were created for anything but labor.

    Rabbi and Priest Milton Goldsmith
  • An owner may, however, let his serf out to some other master for hire.

    Fred Markham in Russia W. H. G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for serf


(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 serf

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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serf 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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