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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.
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 serfdom
  • Already it is casting off the domination of party and the serfdom of tradition, and has set its face steadfastly toward the light.
  • Accepting global warming fraud is accepting serfdom.
  • Fully ninety-four per cent have struggled for land and failed, and half of them sit in hopeless serfdom.
  • They advance against that standard, rather than the pestilence, beggary and injustice of serfdom.
  • Appeals to liberate growers from their serfdom to the champagne houses are no longer in fashion.
  • serfdom came about when people who needed physical protection bound themselves to those who could provide it.
  • Money and markets and property rights freed humanity from millennia of serfdom.
  • serfdom is dead, but many of our fellow citizens are still subject to hardship.
  • All of us resented that, and certainly serfdom of that day resented it.
  • Benefits of serfdom within his constraints, a serf had some freedom.
British Dictionary definitions for serfdom


(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 serfdom

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



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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serfdom 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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