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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
  • Returning students at the peak of their careers cannot fit into the feudal serf pigeonhole of graduate school today.
  • The path to full serf emancipation will take longer than expected.
  • There's almost a serf mentality in comics, toeing the company line.
  • You're either part of the faculty guild, with attendant rights, or you're a serf.
  • Hooper, smiling through his white beard, humble as a misplaced serf.
  • Her evocation of this feudal paradise is so tantalizing one almost longs to be a serf.
  • But even if you're scraping by on a serf's salary, it's possible to live the good life within your means.
  • Further, a serf could not abandon his lands without permission, nor could he sell them.
  • In addition to service, a serf was required to pay certain taxes and fees.
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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